corner graphic

Bible Commentaries

The Biblical Illustrator

Genesis 8

 

 

Verses 1-5

Genesis 8:1-5

The waters assuaged

The gradual cessation of Divine retribution

I.
THAT IT IS MARKED BY A RICH MANIFESTATION OF DIVINE MERCY TO THOSE WHO HAVE SURVIVED THE TERRIBLE RETRIBUTION.

1. God’s remembrance of His creatures during the cessation of retribution is merciful.

2. God’s remembrance of His creatures during the cessation of retribution is welcome.

3. God’s remembrance of His creatures during the cessation of retribution is condescending.

II. THAT IT IS MARKED BY THE OUTGOING AND OPERATION OF APPROPRIATE PHYSICAL AGENCIES. “And God made a wind to pass over the earth, and the waters assuaged.” There have been many conjectures in reference to the nature and operation of this wind; some writers say that it was the Divine Spirit moving upon the waters, and others that it was the heat of the sun whereby the waters were dried up. We think controversy on this matter quite unnecessary, as there can be little doubt that the wind was miraculous, sent by God to the purpose it accomplished. He controls the winds. The Divine Being generally works by instrumentality.

1. Appropriate.

2. Effective.

3. Natural. Anti in this way is the cessation of Divine retribution brought about.

III. THAT IT IS MARKED BY A STAYING AND REMOVAL OF THE DESTRUCTIVE AGENCIES WHICH HAVE HITHERTO PREVAILED. Here we see--

1. That the destructive agencies of the universe are awakened by sin.

2. That the destructive agencies of the universe are subdued by the power and grace of God.

3. That the destructive agencies of the universe are occasional and not habitual in their rule.

IV. THAT IT IS MARKED BY A GRADUAL RETURN TO THE ORDINARY THINGS AND METHOD OF LIFE. This return to the ordinary condition of nature is--

1. Continuous.

2. Rapid.

3. Minutely chronicled.

The world is careful to note the day on which appeared the first indication of returning joy, when after a long period of sorrow the mountain tops of hope were again visible. It is fixed in the memory. It is written in the book. It is celebrated as a festival. Lessons--

1. That the judgments of God, though long and severe, will come to an end.

2. That the cessation of Divine judgment is a time of hope for the good.

3. That the cessation of Divine judgment is the commencement of a new era in the life of man. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)

The ark rested in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, upon the mountains of Ararat

The village of the ark

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. P. Hood.)

Mount Ararat; or, The landing of the ark

I. SIN PUNISHED. Mount Ararat was a solemn witness to the severity of God’s judgments upon a guilty world.

II. GRACE REVEALED. Mount Ararat saw Divine grace displayed to sinful men.

III. SALVATION ENJOYED. Mount Ararat beheld salvation enjoyed by believing sinners: This temporal deliverance was a type of the spiritual. Immeasurably grander, however, will be the salvation of the saints.

1. In respect of its character, being spiritual instead of merely temporal.

2. In respect of its measures, being complete and not merely partial.

3. In respect of its duration, being eternal, and not merely for a brief term of years.

IV. GRATITUDE EXPRESSED. Mount Ararat heard the adorations and thanksgivings of a redeemed family.

V. SAFETY CONFIRMED. Mount Ararat listened to the voice of God confirming the salvation of His people. (T. Whitelaw, M. A.)

The resting of Noah’s ark

The ark of Noah, so far as man was concerned, was left alone upon the waters--no human hand steered it, no human counsel guided it. It was like many a poor soul which is struggling, perhaps, its heavenward way through difficulties and fears, without one earthly friend to comfort it, or one heart in all the world to which to turn for solace and advice. And yet not alone was it tossed and heaved upon this solitary waste. There was an arm unseen directing it, there was strength unseen supporting it, and love unseen that was wafting it. The inhabitants of the ark, at that time, constituted the whole body of God’s believing people. “Are there few that shall be saved?” asked one of old. Yes, they are few, but they are all that can be saved; all that, by the largest stretch of mercy, consistent with God’s justice, can be brought in, shall be brought in. There is no class on earth, if I may so speak, which has not got its representative in heaven. For 150 days--and when, we would ask you, was waiting time stretched out so long?--for 150 days Noah was left without any visible token of God’s care, when, as the narrative simply and beautifully goes on, “God remembered Noah, and every living thing, and all the cattle that was with him in the ark.” Yes; for everything when it comes into covenant with God becomes, from that moment, dear to God. You may be the least--you may be the vilest of all His creatures, but if you are in the ark, if you are a Christian, God must love you. If the whole world is crying in terror, to a good and merciful God we must go: He has a store for His children. How many a man has had reason to look back and say, “That long, tedious affliction which seemed to me as if it would never end--what has it been to me but the saving of my soul? It has been thesnatching of me from that destruction where thousands of my companions have perished, and where perhaps I should have been this day, but for God afflicting me”? The heaviest storm that follows you must one day be calmed; the rudest wind that assails you must one day be hushed. The waters at last began to assuage, and on the seventeenth day of the seventh month--it is well for the mind to keep an accurate record of the date of mercies--the ark rested upon the mountains of Ararat. But Noah was not so soon as this to be released from his confinement, his term was not yet half completed: five months he had been locked in the ark, but seven months more must he yet remain in it. It is natural to imagine, that this last seven months must have seemed to pass more slowly than all the time while they were lying on the waves. If the troubled time of life brings its trials, so also does its calms. It is a hard thing to sit still, and very often there are the greatest perils in the still seasons of life. When is it that the soul of man is so tempted to presumption and self-righteous confidence? When is it that we become careless? When is it that the practical duties of life are neglected, and we sit down it a most dangerous spiritual slumber? Is it not in seasons when we have been imagining that we have reached a place of rest; when the soul, through an overweening confidence, abandons its efforts as if the work were done, and settles down on its lees? Oh, when I think of the dangers of life’s calms, I bless God, that the voyage is generally a rough one! When I remember the trials of the resting ark, I bless God that it is kept so long struggling in the storm! We look at the ark resting seven months upon the mountains of Ararat. What a lesson have we here against impatience! Did Noah and his family complain that they had to wait so long? Oh, no; on the contrary, we know the feelings of the mariner, after a long and dangerous voyage, when he is becalmed within sight of his native land, how he looks at the land and longs to spring upon the shore,--and much more than that, probably, was Noah’s felling;--but nowmark his conduct: no impatient prayer escapes his lips, no restlessness seems to disturb his mind, his faith--as God will expect all faith to be--was a waiting faith. Not even when the least drop of water had dried away would he venture to leave the ark unbidden. God had shut the ark, and God, Noah knows, must open it. Not till the welcome word is given, “Go forth,” will he presume to leave the place, how dark and how drearisome soever that place may be. Now learn, from Noah’s example, your line of duty under many a similar dispensation. Let us learn not to be impatient--I do not say of forbidden pleasures, that would be an easy thing; but do not be impatient of pleasure which it is permitted, nay, of pleasure which it is commanded you to enjoy; no, not for heaven itself. If God has shut any Noah in, be content to wait patiently till God shall open. It is your confidence to sit still. Take another lesson from the resting of the ark. The flood--the type of this our present life--was not yet half completed when Noah found a resting place on earth. From that hour he is, indeed, to wait for many a day before he shall be permitted to come forth; but from that hour Noah is safe. He can thus change no more, for he is anchored on a Rock. Now just so may it be with us on life’s long voyage. The time when it shall be good for us to land on the eternal shore, God alone has fixed--be it ours to wait for it. Long before our sojourn is nigh full--ay, at any time in all the course--we may find a safe anchorage under the Rock of Ages; and from the happy moment when you shall have been received upon a better mountain than that of Ararat, you will feel that you will move no more. There may be a rising of the deep waters around you, but you will be settled and at rest; and oh, how triumphant will you look down on the waters and floods of this world’s struggles, while your faith, standing high on the mountain of God, can feel that the foundations of eternity are under you. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)

The ark resting

What a splendid spectacle! The resting of an eagle who, after soaring half-way to the sun, and stretching across whole provinces; at last, the light of the evening gleaming on her golden feathers, folds on the crag her unwearied wing; the resting of a ship of the line at anchor after contending all day with the angry billows; even the resting of the great moon, as if tired with her long journey through the ether, upon some mount of pines or some hill of snow--are only faint images of the sublimity of the scene, when the Wanderer of the Waters, the God-built ship, its journey done, its work accomplished, its glory gathered, its crew safe, the commencement of a new era of hope for earth through it secured, calmly, and one would almost dream, consciously, reposes upon the proud summit which God has prepared to bear its burden and to share in its immortal fame. (G. Gilfillan.)

Safety

Noah anchored his ark to the Providence of God. No sails were unfurled to the breeze, no oars were unshipped to move the lumbering ark, no rudder was employed to steer. The Providence of God was deeper than the winds and waves and contrary current; and to that, he fastened his barque with the strong cable of faith. Hence the security of the ark with its living freight. (W. Adamson.)

Security

When Alexander the Great was asked how he could sleep so soundly and securely in the midst of surrounding danger, he replied that he might well repose when Parmenis watched. Noah might well be in peace, since God had him in charge. A gentleman, crossing a dreary moor, came upon a cottage. When about to leave, he said to its occupant, “Are you not afraid to live in this lonely place?” To this the man at once responded, “Oh! no, for faith closes the door at night, and mercy opens it in the morning.” Thus was Noah kept during the long night of the deluge; and mercy opened the door for him. (W. Adamson.)

Tops of the mountains seen

The emerging world

To realize this, let us suppose ourselves standing on a hill on a September morning, surrounded by a sea of mist. Nothing for awhile is visible but wild, rolling waves of dripping darkness, till at last the sun looks out, a wind begins to blow, and then there loom forth, peak after peak, the hundred hills around, starting up, as if newly created, from the gulf below, their bases still bathed in mist, but their tops crowned with light, and resembling the islands of some “melancholy main.” It is one of the sublimest of spectacles, reminding you of the worlds rising out of chaos, of God’s “calling the things that were not, and they appeared,” and compelling you, the spectator, to uncover, as the mountains have doge, in the presence of the God of day, although you see in him, what they do not, only the vicegerent of his heavenly King. And similar, but still more striking, must have been to Noah’s eye, as he stood on the sides of the resting ark, the sight of the ancient landmarks of nature reappearing, the ridges of Taurus heaving up like islands through the waters, their shows for the time melted, and perhaps over them all, in the remote distance, the “Finger Mount” arising, relieved against, and pointing significantly to the calm blue sky! Sight reminding us of the rising of great buried truths, as at the Reformation, out of the darkness of ages; struggling, too, to free themselves from the incrustations of error, as the lion from the impediments of the Daedal earth, Sight reminding us of the resurrection of great reputations buried under loads of calumny, or whelmed in deluges of oblivion, into the light of general appreciation, and the consecration of long-denied reverence and love. Sight reminding us of the resurrection of the dead from their sepulchres--specially, shall we say, of the resurrection of aged and venerable patriarchs, having left their hoary hairs in the dust, arising to the vigour and freshness of immortal youth. (G. Gilfillan.)


Verses 1-22

THE FLOOD

Genesis 5:1-32; Genesis 6:1-22; Genesis 7:1-24; Genesis 8:1-22; Genesis 9:1-29

THE first great event which indelibly impressed itself on the memory of the primeval world was the Flood. There is every reason to believe that this catastrophe was co-extensive with the human population of the world. In every branch of the human family traditions of the event are found. These traditions need not be recited, though some of them bear a remarkable likeness to the Biblical story, while others are very beautiful in their construction, and significant in individual points. Local floods happening at various times in different countries could not have given birth to the minute coincidences found in these traditions, such as the sending out of the birds, and the number of persons saved. But we have as yet no material for calculating how far human population had spread from the Original centre. It might apparently be argued that it could not have spread to the seacoast, or that at any rate no ships had as yet been built large enough to weather a severe storm; for a thoroughly nautical population could have had little difficulty in surviving such a catastrophe as is here described. But all that can be affirmed is that there is no evidence that the waters extended beyond the inhabited part of the earth; and from certain details of the narrative, this part of the earth may be identified as the great plain of the Euphrates and Tigris.

Some of the expressions used in the narrative might indeed lead us to suppose that the writer understood the catastrophe to have extended over the whole globe; but expressions of similar largeness elsewhere occur in passages where their meaning must be restricted: Probably the most convincing evidence of the limited extent of the Flood is furnished by the animals of Australia. The animals that abound in that island are different from those found in other parts of the world, but are similar to the species which are found fossilised in the island itself, and which therefore must have inhabited these same regions long anterior to the Flood. If then the Flood extended to Australia and destroyed all animal life there, what are we compelled to suppose as the order of events? We must suppose that the creatures, visited by some presentiment of what was to happen many months after, selected specimens of their number, and that these specimens by some unknown and quite inconceivable means crossed thousands of miles of sea, found their way through all kinds of perils from unaccustomed climate, food, and beasts of prey; singled out Noah by some inscrutable instinct, and surrendered themselves to his keeping. And after the year in the ark expired, they turned their faces homewards, leaving behind them no progeny, again preserving themselves intact, and transporting themselves by some unknown means to their island home. This, if the Deluge was universal, must have been going on with thousands of animals from all parts of the globe; and not only were these animals a stupendous miracle in themselves, but wherever they went they were the occasion of miracle in others, all the beasts of prey refraining from their natural food. The fact is, the thing will not bear stating.

But it is not the physical but the moral aspects of the Flood with which we have here to do. And, first, this narrator explains its cause. He ascribes it to the abnormal wickedness of the antediluvians. To describe the demoralised condition of society before the Flood, the strongest language is used. "God saw that the wickedness of man was great," monstrous in acts of violence, and in habitual courses and established usages. "Every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually,"-there was no mixture of good, no relentings, no repentances, no visitings of compunction, no hesitations and debatings. It was a world of men fierce and energetic, violent and lawless, in perpetual war and turmoil; in which if a man sought to live a righteous life, he had to conceive it of his own mind and to follow it out unaided and without the countenance of any.

This abnormal wickedness again is accounted for by the abnormal marriages from which the leaders of these ages sprang. Everything seemed abnormal, huge, inhuman. As there are laid bare to the eye of the geologist in those archaic times vast forms bearing a likeness to forms we are now familiar with, but of gigantic proportions and wallowing in dim, mist-covered regions; so to the eye of the historian there loom through the obscurity colossal forms perpetrating deeds of more than human savagery, and strength, and daring; heroes that seem formed in a different mould from common men.

However we interpret the narrative, its significance for us is plain. There is nothing prudish in the Bible. It speaks with a manly frankness of the beauty of women and its ensnaring power. The Mosaic law was stringent against intermarriage with idolatresses, and still in the New Testament something more than an echo of the old denunciation of such marriages is heard. Those who were most concerned about preserving a pure morality and a high tone in society were keenly alive to the dangers that threatened from this quarter. It is a permanent danger to character because it is to a permanent element in human nature that the temptation appeals. To many in every generation, perhaps to the majority, this is the most dangerous form in which worldliness presents itself; and to resist this the most painful test of principle. With natures keenly sensitive to beauty and superficial attractiveness, some are called upon to make their choice between a conscientious cleaving to God and an attachment to that which in the form is perfect but at heart is defective, depraved, godless. Where there is great outward attraction a man fights against the growing sense of inward uncongeniality, and persuades himself he is too scrupulous and uncharitable, or that he is a bad reader of character. There may be an undercurrent of warning; he may be sensible that his whole nature is not satisfied, and it may seem to him ominous that what is best within him does not flourish in his new attachment, but rather what is inferior, if not what is worst. But all such omens and warnings are disregarded and stifled by some such silly thought as that consideration and calculation are out of place in such matters. And what is the result? The result is the same as it ever was. Instead of the ungodly rising to the level of the godly, he sinks to hers. The worldly style, the amusements, the fashions once distasteful to him, but allowed for her sake, become familiar, and at last wholly displace the old and godly ways, the arrangements that left room for acknowledging God in the family; and there is one household less as a point of resistance to the incursion of an ungodly tone in society, one deserter more added to the already too crowded ranks of the ungodly, and the life-time if not the eternity of one soul embittered. Not without a consideration of the temptations that do actually lead men astray did the law enjoin: "Thou shalt not make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, nor take of their daughters unto thy sons."

It seems like a truism to say that a greater amount of unhappiness has been produced by mismanagement, folly, and wickedness in the relation subsisting between men and women than by any other cause. God has given us the capacity of love to regulate this relation and be our safe guide in all matters connected with it. But frequently, from one cause or another, the government and direction of this relation are taken out of the hands of love and put into the thoroughly incompetent hands of convenience, or fancy, or selfish lust. A marriage contracted from any such motive is sure to bring unhappiness of a long-continued, wearing, and often heartbreaking kind. Such a marriage is often the form in which retribution comes for youthful selfishness and youthful licentiousness. You cannot cheat nature. Just in so far as you allow yourself to be ruled in youth by a selfish love of pleasure, in so far do you incapacitate yourself for love. You sacrifice what is genuine and satisfying, because provided by nature, to what is spurious, unsatisfying, and shameful. You cannot afterwards, unless by a long and bitter discipline, restore the capacity of warm and pure love in your heart. Every indulgence in which true love is absent is another blow given to the faculty of love within you-you make yourself in that capacity decrepit, paralyzed, dead. You have lost, you have killed the faculty that should be your guide in all these matters, and so you are at last precipitated without this guidance into a marriage formed from some other motive, formed therefore against nature, and in which you are the everlasting victim of nature’s relentless justice. Remember that you cannot have both things, a youth of loveless pleasure and a loving marriage-you must make your choice. For as surely as genuine love kills all evil desire; so surely does evil desire kill the very capacity of love, and blind utterly its wretched victim to the qualities that ought to excite love.

The language used of God in relation to this universal corruption strikes every one as remarkable. "It repented the Lord that He had made man on the earth, and it grieved Him at His heart." This is what is usually termed anthropomorphism, i.e., the presenting of God in terms applicable only to man; it is an instance of the same mode of speaking as is used when we speak of God’s hand or eye or heart. These expressions are not absolutely true, but they are useful and convey to us a meaning which could scarcely otherwise be expressed. Some persons think that the use of these expressions proves that in early times God was thought of as wearing a body and as being very like ourselves in His inward nature. And even in our day we have been ridiculed for speaking of God as a magnified man. Now in the first place the use of such expressions does not prove that even the earliest worshippers of God believed Him to have eyes and hands and a body. We freely use the same expressions though we have no such belief. We use them because our language is formed for human uses and on a human level, and we have no capacity to frame a better. And in the second place, though not absolutely true they do help us towards the truth. We are told that it degrades God to think of Him as hearing prayer and accepting praise; nay, that to think Of Him as a Person at all, is to degrade Him. We ought to think of Him as the Absolutely Unknowable. But which degrades God most, and which exalts Him most? If we find that it is impossible to worship an absolutely unknowable, if we find that practically such an idea is a mere nonentity to us, and that we cannot in point of fact pay any homage or show any consideration to such an empty abstraction, is not this really to lower God? And if we find that when we think of Him as a Person, and ascribe to Him all human virtue in an infinite degree, we can rejoice in Him and worship Him with true adoration, is not this to exalt Him? While we call Him our Father we know that this title is inadequate; while we speak of God as planning and decreeing we know that we are merely making shift to express what is inexpressible by us-we know that our thoughts of Him are never adequate and that to think of Him at all is to lower Him, is to think of Him inadequately; but when the practical alternative is such as it is, we find we do well to think of Him with the highest personal attributes we can conceive. For to refuse to ascribe such attributes to Him because this is degrading Him, is to empty our minds of any idea of Him which can stimulate either to worship or to duty. If by ridding our minds of all anthropomorphic ideas and refusing to think of God as feeling, thinking, acting as men do, we could thereby get to a really higher conception of Him, a conception which would practically make us worship Him more devotedly and serve Him more faithfully, then by all means let us do so. But if the result of refusing to think of Him as in many ways like ourselves, is that we cease to think of Him at all or only as a dead impersonal force, then this certainly is not to reach a higher but a lower conception of Him. And until we see our way to some truly higher conception than that which we have of a Personal God, we had better be content with it.

In short, we do well to be humble, and considering that we know very little about existence of any kind, and least of all about God’s, and that our God has been presented to us in human form, we do well to accept Christ as our God, to worship, love, and serve Him, finding Him sufficient for all our wants of this life, and leaving it to other times to get the solution of anything that is not made plain to us in Him. This is one boon that the science and philosophy of our day have unintentionally conferred upon us. They have laboured to make us feel how remote and inaccessible God is, how little we can know Him, how truly He is past finding out; they have laboured to make us feel how intangible and invisible and incomprehensible God is, but the result of this is that we turn with all the stronger longing to Him who is the Image of the Invisible God, and on whom a voice has fallen from the excellent glory, "This is My beloved Son, hear Him."

The Flood itself we need not attempt to describe. It has been remarked that though the narrative is vivid and forcible, it is entirely wanting in that sort of description which in a modern historian or poet would have occupied the largest space. "We see nothing of the death-struggle; we hear not the cry of despair; we are not called upon to witness the frantic agony of husband and wife, and parent and child, as they fled in terror before the rising waters. Nor is a word said of the sadness of the one righteous man, who, safe himself, looked upon the destruction which he could not avert." The Chaldean tradition which is the most closely allied to the Biblical account is not so reticent. Tears are shed in heaven over the catastrophe, and even consternation affected its inhabitants, while within the ark itself the Chaldean Noah says, "When the storm came to an end and the terrible water-spout ceased, I opened the window and the light smote upon my face. I looked at the sea attentively observing, and the whole of humanity had returned to mud, like seaweed the corpses floated. I was seized with sadness; I sat down and wept and my tears fell upon my face."

There can be little question that this is a true description of Noah’s feeling. And the sense of desolation and constraint would rather increase in Noah’s mind than diminish. Month after month elapsed; he was coming daily nearer the end of his food, and yet the waters were unabated. He did not know how long he was to be kept in this dark, disagreeable place. He was left to do his daily work without any supernatural signs to help him against his natural anxieties. The floating of the ark and all that went on in it had no mark of God’s hand upon it. He was indeed safe while others had been destroyed. But of what good was this safety to be? Was he ever to get out of this prison house? To what straits was he to be first reduced? So it is often with ourselves. We are left to fulfil God’s will without any sensible tokens to set over against natural difficulties, painful and pinching circumstances, ill health, low spirits, failure of favourite projects and old hopes-so that at last we come to think that perhaps safety is all we are to have in Christ, a mere exemption from suffering of one kind purchased by the endurance of much suffering of another kind: that we are to be thankful for pardon on any terms; and escaping with our life, must be content though it be bare. Why, how often does a Christian wonder whether, after all, he has chosen a life that he can endure, whether the monotony and the restraints of the Christian life are not inconsistent with true enjoyment?

This strife between the felt restriction of the Christian life and the natural craving for abundant life, for entrance into all that the world can show us, and experience of all forms of enjoyment-this strife goes on unceasingly in the heart of many of us as it goes on from age to age in the world. Which is the true view of life, which is the view to guide us in choosing and refusing the enjoyments and pursuits that are presented to us? Are we to believe that the ideal man for this life is he who has tasted all culture and delight, who believes in nature, recognising no fall and seeking for no redemption, and makes enjoyment his end; or he who sees that all enjoyment is deceptive till man is set right morally, and who spends himself on this, knowing that blood and misery must come before peace and rest, and crowned as our King and Leader, not with a garland of roses, but with the crown of Him Who is greatest of all, because servant of all-to Whom the most sunken is not repulsive, and Who will not abandon the most hopeless? This comes to be very much the question, whether this life is final or preparatory?-whether, therefore, our work in it should be to check lower propensities and develop and train all that is best in character, so as to be fit for highest life and enjoyment in a world to come-or should take ourselves as we find ourselves, and delight in this present world? whether this is a placid eternal state, in which things are very much as they should be, and in which therefore we can live freely and enjoy freely; or whether it is a disordered, initial condition in which our main task should be to do a little towards putting things on a better rail and getting at least the germ and small beginnings of future good planted in one another? So that in the midst of all felt restriction, there is the highest hope, that one day we shall go forth from the narrow precincts of our ark, and step out into the free bright sunshine, in a world where there is nothing to offend, and that the time of our deprivation will seem to have been well spent indeed, if it has left within us a capacity permanently to enjoy love, holiness, justice, and all that is delighted in by God Himself.

The use made of this event in the New Testament is remarkable. It is compared by Peter to baptism, and both are viewed as illustrations of salvation by destruction. The eight souls, he says, who were in the ark, "were saved by water." The water which destroyed the rest saved them. When there seemed little hope of the godly line being able to withstand the influence of the ungodly, the Flood came and left Noah’s family in a new world, with freedom to order all things according to their own ideas. In this Peter sees some analogy to baptism. In baptism, the penitent who believes in the efficacy of Christ’s blood to purge away sin, lets his defilement be washed away and rises new and clean to the life Christ gives. In Christ the sinner finds shelter for himself and destruction for his sins. It is God’s wrath against sin that saves us by destroying our sins; just as it was the Flood which devastated the world, that at the same time, and thereby, saved Noah and his family.

In this event, too, we see the completeness of God’s work. Often we feel reluctant to surrender our sinful habits to so final a destruction as is implied in being one with Christ. The expense at which holiness is to be bought seems almost too great. So much that has given us pleasure must be parted with; so many old ties sundered, a condition of holiness presents an aspect of dreariness and hopelessness; like the world after the flood, not a moving thing on the surface of the earth, everything levelled, prostrate, and washed even with the ground; here the corpse of a man, there the carcase of a beast: here mighty forest timber swept prone like the rushes on the banks of a flooded stream, and there a city without inhabitants, everything dank, dismal, and repellent. But this is only one aspect of the work; the beginning, necessary if the work is to be thorough. If any part of the sinful life remain it will spring up to mar what God means to introduce us to. Only that is to be preserved which we can take with us into our ark. Only that is to pass on into our life which we can retain while we are in true connection with Christ, and which we think can help us to live as His friends, and to serve Him zealously.

This event then gives us some measure by which we can know how much God will do to maintain holiness upon earth. In this catastrophe every one who strives after godliness may find encouragement, seeing in it the Divine earnestness of God-for good and against evil. There is only one other event in history that so conspicuously shows that holiness among men is the object for which God will sacrifice everything else. There is no need now of any further demonstration of God’s purpose in this world. and His zeal for carrying it out. And may it not be expected of us His children, that we stand in presence of the cross until our cold and frivolous hearts catch something of the earnestness, the "resisting unto blood striving against sin," which is exhibited there? The Flood has not been forgotten by almost any people under heaven, but its moral result is nil. But he whose memory is haunted by a dying Redeemer, by the thought of One Whose love found its most appropriate and practical result in dying for him, is prevented from much sin, and finds in that love the spring of eternal hope, that which his soul in the deep privacy of his most sacred thoughts can feed upon with joy, that which he builds himself round and broods over as his inalienable possession.


Verses 6-8

Genesis 8:6-8

Noah opened the window of the ark

The judicious conduct of a good man in seeking to ascertain the facts of life and his relation thereto

We observe:

I.
THAT NOAH DID NOT EXHIBIT AN IMPETUOUS HASTE TO GET OUT OF THE CIRCUMSTANCES IN WHICH GOD HAD PLACED HIM.

1. We see that God does sometimes place men in unwelcome positions.

2. That when God does place men in unwelcome positions, it is that their own moral welfare may be enhanced.

3. That when men are placed in unwelcome positions they should not remove from them without a Divine intimation.

II. THAT NOAH WAS THOUGHTFUL AND JUDICIOUS IN ENDEAVOURING TO ASCERTAIN THE WILL OF GOD IN REFERENCE TO HIS POSITION IN ITS RELATION TO THE CHANGING CONDITION OF THINGS.

1. Noah felt that the time was advancing for a change in his position, and that it would be necessitated by the new facts of life.

2. Noah recognized the fact that the change in his position should be preceded by devout thought and precaution.

III. THAT NOAH EMPLOYED VARIED AND CONTINUOUS METHODS OF ASCERTAINING THE FACTS OF HIS POSITION AND HIS DUTY IN RELATION THERETO.

1. These methods were varied.

2. Continuous.

3. Appropriate.

IV. THAT NOAH YIELDED A PATIENT OBEDIENCE TO THE TEST OF CIRCUMSTANCES WHICH HE HAD EMPLOYED.

V. THAT INDICATIONS OF DUTY ARE ALWAYS GIVEN TO THOSE WHO SEEK THEM DEVOUTLY. The dove returned to Noah with the olive leaf. Men who seek prayerfully to know their duty in the events of life, will surely have given to them the plain indications of Providence. Lessons:--

1. That men should not trust their own reason alone to guide them in the events of life.

2. That men who wish to know the right path of life should employ the best talents God has given them.

3. That honest souls are divinely led. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)

Lessons

1. God in wisdom sometimes lengthens trials to the proof of the faith and patience of His saints.

2. Believing saints though God appear not, will stay contentedly forty days, that is, the time fit for His salvation.

3. Lawful means believers may use for their comfort, when there is no immediate appearance of God. Noah opens the window which God forbids not (Genesis 8:6).

4. Visible experiments of the ceasing of God’s wrath may be desired and used by His people where the Lord sets no bars.

5. Unclean, or the worst of creatures, may be of use sometimes to comfort the Church. As the ravens fed Elijah.

6. Instinct of creatures from God teach His people of His providences to them. (Genesis 8:7). (G. Hughes, B. D.)

Noah’s messengers

I. MESSENGERS SELECTED. After long floating, during which time Noah would know little of what was passing in the outer world, save that he heard the rain and tempest, the ark grounded. Doubtless he would often look forth on the waste of waters. The rapid evaporation, etc., would very much intercept a distant view. Fogs and mists, etc. Hence to know the state of things beyond the reach of his vision he would send forth messengers. Birds. Birds of swift and strong wing, and clear vision. Land birds. Aquatic birds would not have returned. Birds that may be domesticated and having local attachments. Hence they would return to the ark.

II. MESSENGERS SENT FORTH.

III. MESSENGERS RETURNING. Though Noah might not follow their far flight, they could see the huge ark, to which also their unerring instinct--perhaps supernaturally--would guide them. The joy of Noah on looking once more upon a branch of olive. One of the most beautiful and useful of trees also. Learn--

1. Gratitude for that reason which adapts means to ends.

2. God’s creatures thus employed in the service of man.

3. The ark a type of Christ; and the dove and olive branch, of the soul hastening with peaceful feelings and first fruits to Jesus. (J. C. Gray.)

Raven and dove

Noah sent out the raven first, probably because it had been the most companionable bird and seemed the wisest, preferable to “the silly dove”; but it never came back with God’s message. And so has one often found that an inquiry into God’s will, the examination, for example, of some portion of Scripture, undertaken with a prospect of success and with good human helps, has failed, and has failed in this peculiar raven like way; the inquiry has settled down on some worthless point, on some rotting carcase, on some subject of passing interest or worldly learning, and brings back no message of God to us. On the other hand, the continued use, Sabbath after Sabbath, of God’s appointed means, and the patient waiting for some message of God to come to us through what seems a most unlikely messenger, will often be rewarded. It may be but a single leaf plucked off that we get, but enough to convince us that God has been mindful of our need, and is preparing for us a habitable, world. Many a man is like the raven, feeding himself on the destruction of others, satisfied with knowing how God has dealt with others. He thinks he has done his part when he has found out who has been sinning and what been the result. But the dove will not settle on any such resting place, and is dissatisfied until for herself she can pluck off some token that God’s anger is turned away and that now there is peace on earth. And if only you wait God’s time and renew your endeavours to find such tokens, some assurance will be given you, some green and growing thing, some living part, however small, of the new creation which will certify you of your hope. (M. Dods, D. D.)

The bird on the mast

A sailing vessel was driven before the hurricane--a white bird suddenly descended on the mast: the hearts of the crewwere cheered; hope dawned . . . Such consolation may be always mine! One bright, holy, faithful thought is my dove upon the mast. However sadly I toss over the waves of this troublesome, weary world, that gentle bird of paradise revives and strengthens me. It tells me that the storm will soon be over and gone, and the green land, with the singing of birds, is come. (Wilmott.)


Verses 9-12

Genesis 8:9-12

But the dove found no rest for the sole of her foot and she returned unto him into the ark

The dove’s return to the ark

I.
LOOK AT THE DOVE SETTING OUT UPON HER VOYAGE OF DISCOVERY. Why did she fly away?

1. Because she had wings. Natural instinct. So it is with us. Our soul has many thoughts and many powers which make the spirit restless. If we were without imagination, we might be content with the few plain truths which we have so well known and proved; but having an imagination, we are often dazzled by it, and we pant to know whether certain things which look like solid verities really are so. If we had no reason, but could abide entirely in a state of pure and simple faith, we might not be exposed to much of the restlessness which now afflicts us, but reason will draw conclusions, ask questions, suggest problems, raise inquiries, and vex us with difficulties. Therefore, because our souls are moved by so vast a variety of thoughts, and possess so many powers which are all restless and active, it is readily to be understood, that while we are here in our imperfect state, our spirits should be tempted to excursions of research and voyages of discovery, as though we sought after some other object of love besides the one who still is dearer to us than all the world besides.

2. Possibly there was another reason. This dove was once lodged in a dovecote. Yes, the dovecote still has its attraction. The best of men have still within them the seeds of those sins which make the worst of men so vile. I marvel not that the dove flew away from the ark when she recollected her dovecote, and I do not wonder that at seasons, the old remembrances get the upper hand with our spirit, and we forget the Lord we love, and have a hankering after sin.

3. Yet it would not be fair to forget that this dove was sent out by Noah; so that whatever may have been the particular motives which ruled the creature, there was a higher motive which ruled Noah who sent her out. Even so there are times when the Lord permits His people to endure temptation.

II. Now MARK THE DOVE AS SHE FINDS NO REST. No rest outside of Christ for intellect, heart, conscience

III. WHY THE DOVE COULD FIND NO REST FOR THE SOLE OF HER FOOT.

1. The dove had a will to find rest for the sole of her foot, but she could not. It is not from want of will that I am compelled to say I cannot find anything beneath these stars, nor within the compass of the skies, that can satisfy my soul’s desires; I must get my God and have Him to fill my large expectations, or I shall not be content. I mention these things because people are apt to suppose that Christians are all a set of melancholy dyspeptics, who put up with religion because there is nothing else that helps to make them to be so happily miserable, and therefore they take to it as congenial with their melancholy disposition; but it is not so; we are a cheerful, genial race, and yet for all that we are not resting the sole of our foot anywhere in earthly things.

2. Again, the reason why the dove could find no rest, was not because she had no eye to see. I know not how far a dove’s eye can discern, but it must be a very vast distance, perfectly incredible I should think. We see the dove sometimes mount aloft: we can see nothing, and yet she perceives her dovecote, and darts towards it. I know many Christians who are as quick in apprehension as refined in taste, and as ready to appreciate anything that is pleasurable as other men, and yet these men who are not fanatics, who are not shut up to a narrow range of things, but whose vision can take in the whole circle of sublunary delights, these men who have not only seen but even tasted, yet bear their witness that like the dove they can find no rest for the sole of their foot.

3. Moreover, the reason why the dove found no rest, was not because she had no wings to reach it. So the Christian has power to enter into the enjoyments of the world if he liked. Now, what was the reason then? It was not want of will, it was not want of eye, nor was it want of wing--what was it? The reason lay in this, that she was a dove. If she had been a raven, she would have found plenty of rest for the sole of her foot. It was her nature that made her unresting, and the reason why the Christian cannot find satisfaction in worldly things is because there is a new nature within him that cannot rest. “Up! up! up!” cries the new heart, “what hast thou to do here?”

IV. Being disappointed, WHAT DID THE DOVE THEN DO? When she found there was no contentment elsewhere, what then? She flew back to the ark. Josephus tells us that the dove came back to Noah, with her wings and feet all wet and muddy. Some of you have grown wet and muddy. You have been trying to find rest in the world, Christian, and you have got mired with it.

V. I want you now to turn your eye for a moment to THE VERY BEAUTIFUL SCENE, So it seems to me to be, at the end of her return journey. Noah has been looking out for his dove all day long. Mark that: “pulled her in unto him.” It seems to me to imply that she did not fly right in herself, but was too fearful, or too weary. Did you ever feel that blessed gracious pull, when your heart has been desiring to get near to Christ? Lord! pull me in. (C. H.Spurgeon.)

The homebound dove--a lesson of faith

God has designed but one resting place for the soul, and that is the restoration of peace between it and Himself. On Jesus’ breast we may lay our weary heads. Here at last the dove finds a sure perch.

I. AS IT WANDERED TO AND FRO, IT COULD FIND REST NOWHERE SAVE BY RETURNING TO THE ARK. There, and only there, was rest. Oh, weary soul, have you Bet come to that point? You will not come until you give up all confidence in your self-power.

II. “When the dove came back, IT CAME WITHOUT ANYTHING. Bring no excuse.

III. God had provided but ONE ARK. Only one name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.

IV. That ark had only ONE WINDOW AND THAT WINDOW WAS OPEN. A woman, who was striving to find rest for her soul, was sitting in her summer house, when in through an open door flew a bird. It was alarmed, and flew up toward the roof, and tried to get out at this window and at that. It flew from side to side until it panted with fright and weariness. The woman said, “Poor bird, why do you not come down lower, then you would see this open door, and you could fly out easily?” But the bird kept wounding itself against the closed windows and at every crevice. At last its wings grew tired, and it flew lower and lower until it was on a level with the open door, when quickly it escaped, and soon its song was heard in the trees of the churchyard near by. A new light dawned upon the mind of the woman: “I, like that poor bird, through my pride and self-sufficiency, have been flying too high to see the door which stands wide open.” Her heart was humbled, and soon she too was singing songs of gladness. (T. L.Cuyler, D. D.)

If we, cannot be as we would, we must be as we can

The ark to the dove was like a prison, a place of restraint, and not according to her kind, which was to fly abroad; yet, finding no rest, rather than she will perish, she returneth to the same again. It may teach us this, that better is a mischief than an inconvenience, if we cannot as we would, we must as we can. I speak it against all heathenish and unchristian like impatience. The heathens, rather than they would serve, they would kill themselves. And many in these days, rather than they will suffer what God imposeth, will do what God detesteth. Let it not be so. If we cannot be abroad and at liberty, because God’s judgment against sin hath taken away our footing in such or such sort, whilst it shall please Him let us be content; return, as the clove did, to the place appointed, and thank Him for mercy even in that, that yet there we live, and are not destroyed as others have been. (Bishop Babington.)

A quaint epitaph

The following quaint epitaph has reference to a little girl buried at the age of five months: “But the dove found no rest for the sole of her foot, and she returned unto him into the ark.” (Old Testament Anecdotes.)

An olive leaf

The olive leaf

I. Let us look at the profound, far-reaching SIGNIFICANCE OF THE GREEN LEAF in the mouth of the dove, as the first production of a new and regenerated world.

1. In the first plaice, the green leaf is the great purifier of nature. This is one of the most important offices which it was created to fulfil. In the early ages of the earth, long before man came upon the scene, the atmosphere was foul with carbonic acid gases, so poisonous that a few inspirations of them would be sufficient to destroy life. These formed a dense covering which kept in the steaming warmth of the earth, and nourished a rank and luxuriant vegetation. Gigantic ferns, tree mosses, and reeds grew with extraordinary rapidity, and absorbed these noxious gases into their own structures, consolidating them into leaves, stems, and branches, which in the course of long ages grew and decayed, and by subtle chemical processes and mechanical arrangements were changed into coal beds under the earth. In this wonderful way two great results were accomplished at the same time and by the same means--the atmosphere was purified and made fit for the breathing of man, and animals useful to man, and vast stores of fuel were prepared to enable future generations to subdue the earth and spread over it the blessings of civilization. And what the green leaves of the early geological forests did for the primeval atmosphere of the world, the green leaves of our woods and fields are continually doing for our atmosphere still. They absorb the foul air caused by the processes of decay and combustion going on over the earth, and by the breathing of men and animals, and convert this noxious element into the useful and beautiful products of the vegetable kingdom. They preserve the air in a condition fit for human breathing. These considerations will show us how significant it was that the first object of the new world that was about to emerge from the flood should be a green leaf. It was a symbol, a token to Noah that the world would be purified from the pollution of those unnatural sins which had brought death and destruction upon it, and would once more be fitted to be the home of a peculiar people zealous of good works. What the green leaf is in nature the leaves of the tree of life are in the spiritual sphere. The gospel of Jesus Christ, which the Heavenly Dove carries to the homes and the hearts of men, is the great purifier of the world.

2. In the second place, the green leaf is the source of all the life of the world. It is by its agency alone that inert inorganic matter is changed into organic matter, which furnishes the starting point of all life. Nowhere else on the face of the earth does this most important process take place. Everything else consumes and destroys. The green leaf alone conserves and creates. In this light how suitable it was that an olive leaf freshly plucked should have been the first object brought to Noah in the ark! For just as the green leaf is the means in the natural world of counteracting all the destructive forces that are reducing its objects to dust and ashes, and clothing its surface with vegetable and animal life, so the olive leaf in the mouth of the dove spoke to Noah of the undoing of the work of destruction caused by the flood, and of the raising up of a new and fairer creation out of the universal wreck. And just as all this beautiful world of life and joy is the product of the work of the green leaf, so all that mankind has achieved and enjoyed since the flood--the great results of civilization and the still greater results of redemption--arose out of the work of grace whose dawning the green leaf intimated, and whose operation it typified. For sin and grace are in constant antagonism--like the force of the fire that burns everything to ashes, and the force of the green leaf that builds up life and beauty out of the ashes; and God has suffered sin to continue because He knows that grace can conquer it, strip its spoils, and convert its ruins into higher and nobler forms of life.

3. In the third place, the green leaf is the best conductor of electricity--that most powerful and destructive of all the forces of the earth. A twig covered with leaves, sharpened by nature’s exquisite workmanship, is said to be three times as effectual as the metallic points of the best constructed rod. And when we reflect how many thousands of these vegetable points every large tree directs to the sky, and consider what must be the efficacy of a single forest with its innumerable leaves, or of a single meadow with its countless blades of grass, we see how abundant the protection from the storm is, and with what care Providence has guarded us from the destructive force. And was not that green leaf which came to Noah in the ark God’s lightning conductor? Did it not bear down harmlessly the destructive power of heaven? Did it not assure Noah that the wrath of God was appeased, that the storm was over, and that peace and safety could once more be enjoyed upon the earth? And is not He to whose salvation that leaf pointed--who is Himself the “Branch”--God’s lightning conductor to us? He bore the full force of the Father’s wrath due to sin; He endured the penalty which we deserved; and having smitten the shepherd, the sheep for whom He laid down His life are deathless and unharmed. He is now our refuge from the storm; and under His shadow we are safe from all evil.

4. In the fourth place, the green leaf is the source of all the streams and rivers in the world. It is by the agency of the leaf that water circulates as the life blood of the globe. And how appropriately in this light did the green leaf come to Noah as the earnest and the instrument of the rearrangement of a world which had been reduced to a desert by the punishment of man’s sin! That leaf assured him that the old rivers would flow again; that the former fields would smile anew; that the forests would, as in previous times, cover the earth with their shadow; and that all the conditions of seed time and harvest, and of a pleasant and useful home for man, would be present as of yore. And is not the Heavenly Dove bringing to us in the ark of our salvation a leaf of the tree of life, whose leaves are for the healing of the nations, as a token that beyond the destructive floods of earth, beyond the final conflagration in which all things shall be burned up, the river of life will flow again; and amid the green fields of the paradise restored the Lamb shall lead us to living fountains of waters, and God shall wipe away all tears from our eyes?

5. In the fifth place, the green leaf is the type upon which the forms of all life are moulded, All organisms, whether animal or vegetable, are similar in their elementary structure and form; and the most complicated results are attained by the simplest conceivable means, and that without the slightest violation of the original plan of nature. Thoreau has said that the whole earth is but a gigantic leaf, in which the rivers and streams resemble the veins, and the mountains and plains the green parts: And did not He who sent the dove with the olive leaf to Noah thereby assure him that out of that leaf would be evolved the whole fair world of vegetable and animal life, which for a while had perished beneath the waters of the flood; that it would be reconstructed upon the old type and developed according to the old pattern? And did not He who developed this great world of life out of the single leaf develop all the great scheme of grace, all the wondrous history of redemption, out of the first simple promise to our first parents after their fall? Amid all the varying dispensations of His providence He has been without variableness or shadow of turning, unfolding more and more the germinating fulness of the same glorious plan of grace.

II. Of all the green leaves of the earth it was MOST FITTING THAT THE OLIVE LEAF SHOULD HAVE BEEN SELECTED as the first product of the new restored world. The olive tree spreads over a large area of the earth; it combines in itself the flora of the hills and the plains. It clothes with shade and beauty and slopes where no other vegetation would grow. It extracts by a vegetable miracle nourishment and fatness from the driest air and the barest rock; on it may be seen at the same time opening and full-blown blossoms, and green and perfectly ripe fruit. Each bough is laden with a wealth of promise and fulfilment; beauty for the eye and bounty for the palate. No tree displays such a rich profusion and succession of flowers and fruits. It is the very picture of prosperity and abundance. Its very gleanings are more plentiful than the whole harvest of other trees. It strikingly illustrates, therefore, the overflowing goodness of the Lord, to whom belong the earth and the fulness thereof. What the olive leaf began in Noah’s case was consummated under the olive trees of Gethsemane. He who destroyed the antediluvian sinners by the flood endured the contradiction of greater and more aggravated sinners against Himself. He who sent the flood as a punishment for sin, now suffered it Himself in a more terrible form as an atonement for sin. The olive leaf of Noah’s dove showed that God’s strange work was done, and that He had returned to the essential element of His nature, and love shone forth again. The olive leaves of Gethsemane, that thrilled with the fear of the great agony that took place beneath them, tell us that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” What sweeter message, what dearer hope, could come to us in our sins and sorrows than this! (H. Macmillan, D. D.)

Lessons

1. God’s delay of answer and His saints waiting are fitly coupled.

2. God’s gracious ones are of a contented, waiting and hoping frame.

3. Faith will expect from seven to seven, from week to week, to receive answers of peace from God.

4. After waiting, faith will make trial of lawful means again and again. It will add messenger to messenger (Genesis 8:10).

5. Waiting believers shall receive some sweet return by use of means in God’s time.

6. He that sends out for God is most likely to have return from Him.

7. Visible tokens of God’s wrath ceasing sometimes He is pleased to vouchsafe to His.

8. It concerns God’s saints to consider His signal discoveries of grace, to know them, and gather hope and comfort from them. (G. Hughes, B. D.)

Servants good and bad

First, mark the often sending of the dove, when the raven goeth but once. It showeth the difference of a good servant and a bad. The first is often used, because he is faithful and true; the latter but once, because then he is found to be a raven, more heeding the carrions that his nature regardeth than performing his message which his sender desireth. The praise of these two fowls, how they differ in this place for their service we all see, and it should thus profit us as to prick us to the good and affray us from the evil. In some place or other we are all servants, as these fowls were, to God, to prince, to master, to some or other. Let us be doves, that they may often use us; let us not be ravens, that they may justly refuse us. Secondly, in the dove’s not returning any more let us mark a type of the saints of God, that having sundry times discharged the truth of their places, as the dove did, at last have their departure out of the ark--that is, out of this life and Church militant--and, finding rest for their foot in God’s blessed kingdom, return no more to the ark again, but there continue and abide forever. (Bp. Babington.)

The returning dove

Noah stayed upon this seven days, and then sent out the dove again, saith the text, which returned to him in the evening, bringing in her mouth an olive leaf which she had plucked, whereby Noah knew the waters were abated. This dove may note the preachers also of the Word again, who bring in their mouths some good tidings to the ark--that is, to the Church; and every good news may be compared also to an olive leaf, and the tellers to doves. That good news that the women brought to the disciples, that Christ was risen, was like an olive leaf in their mouths, and they like this dove in this place. So all others. Read 2 Kings 7:1-20, of the good news of the lepers, and 2 Samuel 18:27. “He is a good man,” saith David, “and cometh with good tidings.” So good men and women have words of comfort in their mouths, when others have the poison of asps under their tongues; they have olive leaves to cheer up Noah and his company withal, when others have wormwood and gall to make their hearts ache with the bitterness thereof. Such does God make us evermore, and if this be regarded of us, we will endeavour it. (Bp. Babington.)


Verse 13-14

Genesis 8:13-14

Noah removed the covering of the ark

Noah’s first consciousness of safety after the deluge

I.
He would probably be impressed with the GREATNESS OF THE CALAMITY HE HAD ESCAPED. The roaring waters had subsided, but they had wrought a terrible desolation, they had reduced the earth to a vast charnel house; every living voice is hushed, and all is silent as the grave. The patriarch, perhaps, would feel two things in relation to this calamity.

1. That it was the result of sin.

2. That it was only a faint type of the final judgment.

II. He would probably be impressed with the EFFICACY OF THE REMEDIAL EXPEDIENT. How would he admire the ark that had so nobly battled with the billows and so safely weathered the storm!

1. This expedient was Divine. Christianity, the great expedient for saving souls from the deluge of moral evil, is God’s plan. “What the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh.” Philosophy exhausted itself in the trial.

2. This expedient alone was effective. When the dreadful storm came, we may rest assured that every one of that terror-stricken generation would seize some scheme to rescue him from the doom. “There is no other name,” etc.

3. The expedient was only effective to those who committed themselves to it.

III. He would probably be impressed with the WISDOM OF HIS FAITH IN GOD. He felt now--

1. That it was wiser to believe in the Word of God than to trust to the conclusions of his own reason.

2. That it was wiser to believe in the Word of God than to trust to the uniformity of nature.

3. That it was wiser to believe in God’s Word than to trust to the current opinion of his contemporaries. (Homilist.)

Lessons

1. The giving in of one step of mercy maketh God’s saints to wait for more.

2. God’s gracious ones desire to let patience have its perfect work towards God.

3. The saint’s disposition is to have experience of mercy by trying means, as well as to wait for it.

4. In the withholding of return of means may be the return of mercy. Though the dove stay, yet mercy cometh.

5. Providence promotes the comfort of saints when He seems to stop them, as in staying the clove (Genesis 8:12).

6. As times of special mercy are recorded by God, so they should be remembered by the Church.

7. At His appointed periods God measures out mercy unto His Church.

8. The saints’ patient waiting would God have recorded, as well as His performing mercies.

9. As mercies move to God’s Church, so He moveth His saints to remove veils and meet them.

10. Manifestations of mercies God vouchsafeth His, as well as mercy itself.

11. Several periods of time God takes to perfect salvation to His Church.

12. After all patient waiting, in God’s full time full and complete mercy and salvation is given into His Church (Genesis 8:13). (G. Hughes, B. D.)


Verses 15-19

Genesis 8:15-19

Noah went forth

Man’s going forth after the judgments of God -

I.
THAT HE GOES FORTH UPON THE DIVINE COMMAND (Genesis 8:15-17).

1. That Noah was counselled to go forth from the ark on a day ever to be remembered.

2. That Noah was commanded to go forth from the ark when the earth was dry.

II. THAT HE GOES FORTH IN REFLECTIVE SPIRIT. We can readily imagine that Noah would go forth from the ark in very reflective and somewhat pensive mood.

1. He would think of the multitudes who had been drowned in the great waters.

2. He would think of his own immediate conduct of life, and of the future before him.

III. THAT HE GOES FORTH IN COMPANY WITH THOSE WHO HAVE SHARED HIS SAFETY.

1. He goes forth in company with the relatives of his own family. God permitted the family of Noah to be with him in the ark, to relieve his solitude, to aid his efforts, to show the protective influence of true piety; and now they are to join him in the possession of the regenerated earth, that they may enjoy its safety and aid its cultivation.

2. He goes forth in company with the life-giving agencies of the universe. (J. S.Exell, M. A.)


Verse 20

Genesis 8:20

And Noah builded an altar unto the Lord

Noah’s sacrifice

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 idea 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 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, M. A.)

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

Sacrificial worship

The text teaches--

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. (J. Parker, D. D.)

The devout conduct of a good man after a special deliverance from imminent danger

I. THAT NOAH GRATEFULLY ACKNOWLEDGED HIS DELIVERANCE AS FROM GOD.

II. THAT NOAH DEVOUTLY OFFERED TO GOD A SACRIFICE IN TOKEN OF HIS DELIVERANCE.

1. This sacrifice was the natural outcome of Noah’s gratitude.

2. This sacrifice was not precluded by any excuse consequent upon the circumstances of Noah.

III. That the sacrifice of Noah was ACCEPTABLE TO GOD AND PREVENTIVE OF FURTHER EVIL TO THE WORLD.

1. It was fragrant.

2. It was preventive of calamity.

3. It was preservative of the natural agencies of the universe. (J. S.Exell, M. A.)

Noah’s offering on coming forth from the ark, and its results

I. THE OCCASION ON WHICH THIS OFFERING WAS MADE.

1. How impressively would Noah and his family be reminded of the Divine forbearance which had been displayed to the whole world.

2. With what solemn awe would Noah and his family now view the earth bearing on every part of its surface the marks of recent vengeance.

3. With what adoring and grateful feeling would Noah and his family view their own preservation on this occasion.

II. ITS NATURE.

1. An expression of gratitude.

2. An acknowledgment of dependence.

3. A lively exhibition of his faith in the future atonement, as well as an appropriate testimony that his recent preservation was owing to the efficacy of that atonement.

III. ITS RESULTS.

1. The offering was accepted.

2. The promise which was given.

3. The covenant which was made. (Sketches of Sermons.)

Priest, altar, sacrifice

1. A believing priest.

2. A sanctified altar.

3. A clean sacrifice.

4. A type of Christ. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)

Fragrant offerings

I. NOAH’S SACRIFICIAL OFFERINGS.

1. Observe WHAT HE OFFERED.

2. See how he offered.

II. THE LORD’S GRACIOUS ACCEPTANCE THEREOF.

1. The Lord accepts a limited offering, if it be our best.

2. It is the sacrifice of faith which pleases God.

3. The Lord loves gratitude in return for mercies received.

4. The Lord visits the remnant of His people where there is family devotion.

5. In seeking to please God, the Christian secures richest blessings. (The Congregational Pulpit.)

Noah’s sacrifice blessing the world; and God’s decree for all nature

I. THE ACCEPTANCE OF NOAH’S SACRIFICE AND ITS TYPICAL IMPORT.

1. Look at the acceptance of Noah’s sacrifice.

2. Noah’s sacrifice was typical of Christ’s, and like His brought a blessing on the world.

II. THE WISE ECONOMY OF GOD, IN HIS WISE LAWS OF NATURE FOR TEMPORAL BLESSINGS.

1. The wisdom and benevolence of God are visible in the variety of the seasons, and in the profusion of earthly blessings.

2. The wisdom of God is visible for faith in all His providential arrangements for the good of the world.

III. PRACTICAL REFLECTIONS.

1. Reflect that it is because of Christ’s sacrifice the whole world is blessed.

2. Reflect how God deals with sinful men in great long suffering mercy.

3. Reflect and remember that the Lord Jesus shall stand like Noah, when a deluge of fire rolls over this world. (J. G. Angley, M. A.)

The worshippers of the new world

1. It was an altar of obedience. With Noah the will of God was paramount. What is religion but obedience?--“the obedience of faith”--of which the entire simplicity constitutes its true perfection. Noah’s career in the new world began in the spirit of essential obedience. At the command, “Go forth,” the Ark is deserted; and, doubtless, in the spirit of faith the altar was erected.

2. It was an altar of gratitude and dedication. Noah was grateful to his Almighty Friend; and, as gratitude is a quality which loses its fragrance by delay, so he postponed every business and consideration to the thankful acknowledgment of his mercies.

3. It was an altar of propitiation. This is its most important feature. Worship and sacrifice are incorporated and identified from the beginning of the world. Man was always a sinner. He could never approach his Maker in any other character.

4. The altar of Noah was a family altar. He was the priest of his family. He required their presence before the throne of grace. He persuaded them to assist in praising God, and in making a covenant by sacrifice. A family altar is, transcendently and incalculably, a family blessing. With Noah, the worship of God was the first business he attended to. He lacked neither calls of necessity nor momentous cares; but he postponed all ether considerations to the service of God. Not like the majority amongst us, who fancy that they have too much to do to devote any time to religion. In the patriarch’s worship there was no trace of selfishness. Many think there is no worship like free worship, and are most willing to pray where they have little to pay. What a reproof may they find in Noah! The seventh part of his whole stock and substance he dedicated to God. He reasoned not about future wants, but made an instant and “a whole burnt offering” to his Maker. He did it because it was God’s appointment. (C. Burton, LL. D.)


Verse 21

Genesis 8:21

The Lord smelled a sweet savour

The sweet savour

How important is it, that this truth shall be as a sun without a speck before us! Hence the Spirit records that, when Noah shed the blood which represented Christ, “The Lord smelled a sweet savour.
” Thus the curtains of God’s pavilion are thrown back; and each attribute appears rejoicing in redemption. The Lamb is offered, and there is fragrance throughout heaven. First, let Justice speak. Its claim strikes terror. It has a right to one unbroken series of uninterrupted obedience through all life’s term. Each straying of a thought from perfect love incurs a countless debt. Here Jesus pays down a death, the worth of which no tongue can reckon. Justice holds scales, which groan indeed under mountains upon mountains of iniquity: but this one sacrifice more than outweighs the pile. Thus Justice rejoices, because it is infinitely honoured. Next, there is a sweet savour here to the Truth of God. If Justice is unyielding, so too is Truth. Its yea is yea; its nay is nay. It speaks, and the word must be. Heaven and earth may pass away, but it cannot recede. Now its voice is gone forth, denouncing eternal wrath on every sin. Thus it bars heaven’s gates with bars of adamant. In vain are tears, and penitence, and prayers. Truth becomes untrue, if sin escapes. But Jesus comes to drink the cup of vengeance. Every threat falls on His head. Truth needs no more. It claps the wings of rapturous delight, and speeds to heaven to tell that not one word has failed. Need I add that Jesus is a sweet savour to the holiness of God. Sweet too is the savour which mercy here inhales. Mercy weeps over misery. In all afflictions it is afflicted. Is tastes the bitterest drop in each cup of woe. But when anguish is averted, the guilty spared, the perishing rescued, and all tears wiped from the eyes of the redeemed, then is its holiest triumph
. (Dean Law.)

What does God see in the sacrifice of His Son to please Him?

1. The reflection of His own love.

2. The vindication of His righteousness. God prescribes the sacrifice in order that He may be just when He justifies (Romans 3:25-26).

3. The willingness of the self-devotion.

4. The prospect of pure service. Human nature, in Christ’s obedience and death, is purified and restored. Noah’s sacrifice might be compared to a morning prayer at the dawn of a new epoch in human history. It was a dedication of restored humanity to the service of God, the Deliverer. The hope of the human race consists in possessing acceptable access unto God. This we have in Jesus Christ, by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 2:18; Ephesians 3:12; Hebrews 10:19-22). (W. S. Smith, B. D.)

The imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth

Man’s tendency to go wrong

I. 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, D. D.)

Human depravity and Divine mercy

I. A MOST PAINFUL FACT. Man’s nature is incurable. The statement of Scripture is corroborated by--

1. The confessions of God’s people.

2. Our own observation.

II. GOD’S EXTRAORDINARY REASONING. Good reasoning, but most extraordinary. He says, “I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake; for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth.” Strange logic! In the sixth chapter, He said man was evil, and therefore He destroyed him. In the eighth chapter, He says man is evil from his youth, and therefore He will not destroy him. Strange reasoning! to be accounted for by the little circumstance in the beginning of the verse, “The Lord smelled a sweet savour.” There was a sacrifice there; that makes all the difference. When God looks on sin apart from sacrifice, Justice says, Smite! Smite! Curse! Destroy!” But when there is a sacrifice God looks on us with eyes of mercy, and though Justice says, “Smite!” He says, “No, I have smitten My dear Son; I have smitten Him, and will spare the sinner.” Rightly upon the terms of Justice, there is no conceivable reason why He should have mercy upon us, but grace makes and invents a reason.

III. INFERENCES. If the heart be so evil, then it is impossible for us to enter heaven as we are. Another step; then it is quite clear that if I am to enter heaven no outward reform will ever do it, for if I wash my face, that does not change my heart. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Man’s natural imaginations

I. OF MAN’S NATURAL THOUGHTS CONCERNING GOD.

1. Of this thought there is no God.

2. That the word of God is foolishness.

3. I will not obey God’s word.

4. It is a vain thing to worship God.

5. Of man’s thought of distrust--God will not regard, or be merciful to me.

II. OF MAN’S NATURAL THOUGHTS AGAINST HIS NEIGHBOUR

1. Thoughts of dishonour.

2. Thoughts of murder.

3. Thoughts of adultery.

III. OF MAN’S NATURAL THOUGHTS CONCERNING HIMSELF.

1. Man’s proud thoughts of his own excellency.

2. Man’s proud thoughts of his own righteousness.

3. Man’s thought of security in the day of peace.

IV. OF THE WANT OF GOOD THOUGHTS IN EVERY MAN NATURALLY.

1. Good thoughts about temporal things are much wanting.

2. In spiritual things they are much wanting.

3. The fruits of this want of good thoughts.

4. The timely preventing of evil thoughts by good parents and teachers.

5. The repentance of evil thoughts.

V. RULES FOR THE REFORMATION OF EVIL THOUGHTS.

1. They must be brought into obedience to God.

2. The guarding of our hearts.

3. The consideration of God’s presence.

4. The consideration of God’s judgments. (W. Perkins.)

Punishment not reformative

The first thing we learn after this solemn declaration is that there is to be no more smiting of every living thing, plainly showing that mere destruction is a failure. I do not say that destruction is undeserved or unrighteous, but that it is, as a reformative arrangement, a failure as regards the salvation of survivors. We can see men slain for doing wrong, and can in a day or two after the event do the very things which cost them their lives! It might be thought that one such flood as this would have kept the world in order forever, whereas men now doubt whether there ever was such a flood, and repeat all the sins of which the age of Noah was guilty. You would think that to see a man hanged would put an end to ruffianism forever; whereas, history goes to show that within the very shadow of the gallows men hatch the most detestable and alarming crimes. Set it down as a fact that punishment, though necessary even in its severest forms, can never regenerate the heart of man. From this point, then, we have to deal with a history the fundamental fact of which is that all the actors are as bad as they can possibly be. “There is none righteous, no not one.” “There is not a just man upon the earth that doeth good and sinneth not.” (J. Parker, D. D.)

The end answered by the deluge

It must have been a day of intense solemnity; and if ever men could be struck with awe, if ever men could feel their spirits bowed down and overwhelmed by the tremendousness of God--those who now presented that sacrifice, the lonely wreck of anunnumbered population, must have crouched, and trembled, and been full of the most earnest humility. And possibly they might have thought that, since the wicked were removed, a moral renovation would pass over mankind, and that themselves and their posterity would differ altogether from the ungodly race which had perished in the waters. It could not have seemed improbable that, after removing the multitude which had provoked Him by their impieties, God would raise up a people who should love Him and honour Him, seeing that, if there was to be the same provocation of wickedness, there was nothing to be looked for but a recurrence of the deluge; and if this earth were to be again and again the theatre of the same provocations and the same vengeance, it would be hard to say why God spared a remnant, or why He allowed the rebellious race to be continued and multiplied. Yet, however natural it might have been for Noah and his sons to calculate on a moral improvement in the species, it is certain that after the flood, men were just the same fallen creatures that they had been before the flood. There had been effected no change whatever on human nature, neither had God destroyed the wicked, expecting the new tenantry would be more obedient and more righteous than the old. And it is every way remarkable, that the reason which is given why God sent one deluge is given as the reason why God sent not a second deluge. He sent one flood because “the imagination of man’s thoughts was only evil continually”; and He resolved that He would not send another flood because--or, at least, though--this evil imagination remained unsubdued. Now, it is scarcely necessary for us to remark that wickedness must at all times be equal in God’s sight; and that however various the modes by which He sees fit to oppose it, He is alike earnest in punishing it. Why, then, did He not follow the same plan throughout? Or why did He administer once that punishment which He thought fit not to repeat? Such questions, you observe, are not merely speculative. If God Himself had not given the same reason for sparing as for smiting, we might have thought that the flood had made a change in the moral circumstances of our race, and there was not again the same intense provocation; but when we hear from the lips of Jehovah Himself, that there was precisely as much after the deluge as before, yea, that He refrained from cursing in the face of that very wickedness, we are only endeavouring to be wise up to what is written in searching out the reason for the change in God’s conduct.

I. SINCE A FLOOD WAS AS MUCH CALLED FOR TWICE AS ONCE, WHY SHOULD IT HAVE BEEN SENT ONCE, THE PROVOCATION BEING JUST THE SAME, AND YET THE DEALING MOST DIFFERENT? WAS ANY END ANSWERED BY THE DELUGE? Now, our first thought on finding that there was just the same reason for destroying the world twice as for destroying it once is, that no end was answered by the deluge which might not have been answered without a deluge. But though it is most certain that there was as much provocation after as before the deluge, it is a most unwarranted conclusion that no great ends were answered by the deluge. The deluge was God’s sermon against sin, whose echoes will be heard until the consummation of all things. We give no harbourage for a moment--we know there could be nothing more false than the opinion--that the antediluvians must have been more wicked than ourselves because visited with signal and unequivocal punishment: but if you infer from this that the flood was unnecessary, that the antediluvians might as well have been spared as their successors, we at once deny the conclusion. Had there never been a flood, we should have wanted our most striking attestation to the truth of the Bible. We are prepared to contend that, in bringing water upon the earth, God was wondrously providing for the faith of every coming generation, and was writing in characters which no time can efface, and no ingenuity prove to be forgeries, that He hates sin with perfect hatred, and will punish it with rigid punishment. But it is important to bear in mind that, when God visibly interferes for the punishment of wickedness, there are some ends of His moral government to be answered, over and above that of the chastisement of the unrighteous. Ordinarily God delays taking vengeance till the last day of account; and we judge erroneously if we judge from God’s dealings with man on this side eternity. When there is a direct interposition, such as the deluge, we may be sure it answers other designs besides that of punishing unrighteousness: and before, therefore, we can show that there was the same reason for a second deluge as for one, we must not only show there was the same amount of wickedness, and the same evil in the imagination of the heart--we must show there was the same end of moral government to be answered, over and above that of the punishment of the rebellious. And here it is you will feel established in the belief that a great lesson was recorded as to God’s hatred of sin, and His determination to destroy, sooner or later, the impenitent. And God furnished this lesson, so that ages have obliterated no letter of the record, by bringing a flood on the earth, and burying in the womb of waters the unnumbered tribes that crowded its continents. But the lesson required not to be repeated; it was sufficient that it should be given once--sufficient, seeing that it is still so powerful and persuasive that it leaves inexcusable all who persist in rejecting it.

II. We propose to seek an answer to the inquiry, WHETHER LONG SUFFERING CAN PRODUCE THE SAME RESULTS AS PUNISHING. And this, after all, is the question most forcibly presented in our text. Whether God smites, or whether He spares, we know He must have the same objects in view--the promotion of His own glory and the well-being of the universe. But how comes it, then, to pass that it was best at one time to smite, and at another time to spare? We have given a reason for one deluge, which could not be given for a second. The lesson of the deluge was to be spread over the whole surface of time; and thus the one act of punishment was to have its effect throughout the season of long suffering. Punishment was a necessary preliminary to long suffering, to prevent the abuse of long suffering. God is only taking consecutive steps in one and the same design; and if we are right in saying that punishment was necessarily preliminary to long suffering, than even a child can perceive that God was only acting out the same arrangement when He said, “I will not spare,” and when He said, “I will spare, for the imagination of man’s heart is evil.” It is as though He said, “I might send flood after flood, and leave again only an insignificant fraction of the population; but the evil lies deep in the heart, and would not be swept away by the immensity of waters. I might deal with succeeding generations as I have with this very one; and as soon as the earth sent up new harvests of wickedness, I might come forth, and put in the scythe of My vengeance; but after all there would be no renovation, and evil would still be predominant in this section of the creation. Therefore I will be long suffering; nothing but longsuffering can affect My purpose, for nothing but an atonement can reconcile the fallen; and long suffering is nothing but the atonement anticipated. I will not, then, again curse the ground, for man’s imaginations are evil. I will not curse--the evil will not be grappled with by the curse--the evil would not go away before the curse. If the evil were not in the very heart, it might be eradicated by judgment; if it were not engraven into the very bone and sinew and spirit, it might be washed out by the torrent; and I would again curse. But it is an evil for which there must be expiation; it is an evil which can only be done away by sacrifice, it is an evil which can only be exterminated by the entering in of Deity into that nature.” It is thus that, so far as we can judge, without overstraining the passage, the corruption of human nature will furnish a reason why there was no repetition of the deluge. God’s object was not to destroy, but to reconcile the world: and the reconciliation could not be effected by judgments; the machinery must be made up of mercies. Judgments might make way for mercies, but they could not do the work of mercies. Punishment was preliminary to sparing, but punishment continued would not have effected the object of the Almighty. So that long suffering was the only engine by which the machinery could be mastered. The whole of Christ’s work was gathered, so to speak, into long suffering.

III. But who can give himself to an inquiry which has to do with the cause or reason of the deluge, and not feel his attention drawn to the TYPICAL CHARACTER of that tremendous event? The history of the world before the flood is nothing but the epitome of the history of the world up to that grand consummation, the second coming of the Lord. And if we wanted additional reasons why one deluge should be sent and not a second, we might find it in the fact that all the affairs of time shall be wound up by a single visitation. The antediluvian world had been dealt with by the machinery of the most extensive loving kindness: the Almighty had long borne with the wickedness of the earth; and it was not till every overture had been despised that He allowed Himself to strike. Shall it not be thus with the world of the unrighteous? Wonderful has been the long suffering of the Almighty: and as there has gone on the building of the ark--as the Church of Christ has been gathered and cemented and enlarged, the voice and entreaties of ministers and missionaries have circulated through Christianity; and the despiser has been continually told, sternly, and reproachfully, and affectionately, that a day will yet burst upon the creation, when all who are not included in the ark shall be tossed on the surges and buried in the depths of a fiery sea. But as the time of the end draws near, the warning will grow louder, and the entreaty more urgent, that all men put away their wickedness, and prepare themselves for meeting their Judge. (H. Melvill, B. D.)


Verse 22

Genesis 8:22

While the earth remaineth, seed time, and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.

The sermon of the seasons

I. In the text there is A SOLEMN HINT OF WARNING. “While the earth remaineth.”

1. It is implied that the earth will not always remain.

2. The time when the earth shall no longer remain is not mentioned. The uncertainty of the end of all things is intended to keep us continually on the watch.

3. Let me further remark that the day when the remaining of the earth shall cease cannot be very far off; for according to the Hebrew, which you have in the margin of your Bibles, the text runs thus: “As yet all the days of the earth, seed time and harvest shall not cease.” The “while” of the earth’s remaining is counted by days; not even months or years are mentioned, much less centuries.

II. Thus, then, there is a hint of warning in our text; but secondly, there is A SENTENCE OF PROMISE, rich and full of meaning: “While the earth remaineth, seed time and harvest, cold and heat, winter and summer, and day and night shall not cease.” It is a promise concerning temporal things, but yet it breathes a spiritual air, and hath about it the smell of a field that the Lord hath blessed.

1. This promise has been kept. It is long since it was written, it is longer still since it was resolved upon in the mind of God; but it has never failed. There have been times when cold has threatened to bind the whole year in the chains of frost; but genial warmth has pushed it aside. The ordinances of heaven have continued with us as with our fathers.

2. So long-continued is the fulfilment of this promise, and even this race of unbelievers has come to believe in it. We look for the seasons as a matter of course. Why do we not believe God’s other promises?

3. Brethren, we have come not only to believe this promise as to the seasons and to make quite sure about it, but we practically act upon our faith. The farmers have sown their autumn wheat, and many of them are longing for an opportunity to sow their spring wheat; but what is sowing but a burial of good store? Why do husbandmen hide their grain in the earth? Because they feel sure that seed time will in due time be followed by harvest. Why do we not act in an equally practical style in reference to the rest of God’s promises? True faith makes the promises of God to be of full effect by viewing them as true and putting them to the test.

4. If a man did not act upon the declaration of God in our text, he would be counted foolish. Equally mad are they who treat other promises of God as if they were idle words; no more worthy of notice than the prophecies of a charlatan.

5. Let me close this point by noticing that, whether men believe this or not it will stand true. A man says there will be no winter, and provides no garments; he will shiver in the northern blast all the same when December covers the earth with snow.

III. There is also in the text, I think, A SUGGESTION OF ANALOGIES. Reading these words, not as a philosophical prediction, but as a part of the Word of God, I see in them a moral, spiritual, and mystical meaning.

1. While the earth remaineth there will be changes in the spiritual world. “While the earth remaineth, seed time and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.” No one of these states continues; it comes and goes. The seasons are a perpetual procession, an endless chain, an ever-moving wheel. Such is this life: such are the feelings of spiritual life with most men: such is the history of the Church of God. It will be so while the earth remaineth, and we remain partakers of the earth.

2. Yet there will be an order in it all. Cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night, do not come in a giddy dance or tumultuous hurly burly; but they make up the fair and beautiful year. Chance has no part in these affairs. So in the spiritual kingdom, in the life of the believer, and in the history of the Church of God, all things are made to work for good, and the spiritual is being educated into the heavenly.

3. Great rules will stand while the earth abideth, in the spiritual as well as in the natural world. For instance, there will be seed time and harvest, effort and result, labour and success.

IV. Last of all, I want you to regard my text as A TOKEN FOR THE ASSURANCE OF OUR FAITH. “While the earth remaineth, seed time and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.” And they do not. In this fact we are bidden to see the seal and token of the covenant. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The harvest

I. A TESTIMONY FOR GOD’S FAITHFULNESS. The return of harvest speaks to you in language not to be mistaken. “Hold fast the profession of your faith without wavering; for He is faithful that has promised.” “My covenant will I not break, saith the Lord; nor alter the thing that has gone out of My lips.” “But,” you will say perhaps, “it is not God’s faithfulness I question--I doubt His mercy. The Word of the Lord, that shall stand; but ‘Hismercy is in the heavens.’ It reacheth not to me.” And why not? What but mercy, infinite mercy, so prevailed with the Almighty that He should promise “seed time and harvest” so long as the earth endureth!

II. THE HARVEST IS A FIGURE OF THE CONSUMMATION OF ALL THINGS.

1. The end of the world is as sure as the harvest.

2. As in harvest the reaper casts aside the weed, so every false professor will be “cast into outer darkness,” while the righteous will “shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” “Whoso hath ears to hear, let him hear.”

3. Again, it is in harvest we receive of that we have sown; and it is in harvest we see the end of the husbandman’s labour--why he hath so long “waited for the early and latter rain.” And so in the end of the world. Then is it that we shall see the purposes for which the world was made, and wherefore it has been sustained so long. Then we shall see the long suffering of God, and wherefore He hath borne with us so long. (W. M.Mungeain, B. A.)

The duty of thanksgiving for the harvest

I. WHEN WAS THIS PROMISE GIVEN? Immediately after the deluge. In wrath God remembered mercy.

II. WHAT WOULD HAVE BEEN THE PROBABLE RESULT, IF GOD HAD GIVEN US JUDGMENT AND NOT MERCY? If the covenant with the seasons had been suspended, all happiness and comfort must have been instantly paralysed, and all animal life extinguished; existence would no longer have been possible, and your palaces, mansions, and cottages would have been mere sepulchres, full of dead men’s bones.

III. But thirdly, let us inquire WHETHER A TIME IS NOT COMING WHEN SEED TIME AND HARVEST, HEAT AND COLD, SUMMER AND WINTER, DAY AND NIGHT, WILL CEASE? Yes, the covenant in the text is limited in time, it holds good only “whilst the earth remaineth.” Let this consideration lead us to seek an interest in the better covenant, founded on better promises, and which lasts for eternity; and let us rest our hopes on that firm foundation. (H. Clissold, M. A.)

Lessons from the harvest

1. Every harvest teaches the fact of God’s wise providence.

2. 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.

3. God expects every one of His creatures to be as faithful to a purpose as He Himself has been. (C. S. Robinson, D. D.)

God’s goodness in nature

Once there was a peasant in Switzerland at work in his garden very early in the spring. A lady passing said, “I fear the plants which have come forward rapidly will yet be destroyed by frost.” Mark the wisdom of the peasant:--“God has been our Father a great while,” was his reply. What faith that reply exhibited in the olden promise, “While the earth remaineth,” etc.

Cold needful

A minister going to church one Lord’s Day morning, when the weather was extremely cold and stormy, was overtaken by, one of his neighbours, who, shivering, said to him, “It’s very cold, sir.” “Oh!” replied the minister, “God is as good as His Word still.” The other started at his remark, not apprehending his drift, or what he referred to; and asked him what he meant. “Mean!” replied he, “why, He promised above three thousand years ago, and He still makes His Word good, that ‘while the earth remaineth, seed time and harvest, and cold and heat, shall not cease.’”

Spiritual winter

1. 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.

2. The objects of spiritual winter are:

Christian Church.

3. How are we to improve spiritual winter?

The moral significance of winter

The seasonable changes to which our earth is subject are of vast importance to man. They serve--

1. To impress us with the fact of the brevity of life.

2. To keep the soul in constant action.

3. To revive the recollections of old truths. What are the truths that nature reproduces in winter?

I. THE EVANESCENT FORMS OF EARTHLY LIFE. Individuals, families, and nations have their seasons--their spring, summer, autumn, winter.

II. THE STERN ASPECTS OF NATURE’S GOD. Winter significantly hints that the Absolute cannot be trifled with--that He curses as well as blesses, destroys as well as saves.

III. THE RETRIBUTIVE LAW OF THE CREATION. Winter brings on men the penalties for not rightly attending to the other seasons.

IV. THE PROBABLE RESUSCITATION OF BURIED EXISTENCE. The life of the world in winter is not gone out, it is only sleeping..

1. The resuscitation of Christian truth.

2. The resuscitation of conscience.

3. The resuscitation of the human body. (Homilist.)

Autumn tide

1. Something ought, by the time we have arrived at autumn, to have been got ready to give to man. Have you done it? What fruit have you borne in life for your brother men; how much wheat will God find in you when He comes to reap your fields? We have read the answer that should be given in the harvest time every year. Few sights are fairer than that seen autumn after autumn round many an English homestead, when, as evening falls, the wains stand laden among the golden stubble, and the gleaners are scattered over the misty field; when men and women cluster round the gathered sheaves, and rejoice in the loving kindness of the earth; where, in the dewy air, the shouts of happy people ring, and over all the broad moon shines down to bless with its yellow light the same old recurring scene it has looked on and loved for so many thousand years. It is the picture of a fruitful human life when its autumn tide has come; and blessed are they of whom men can feel the same as when they share in a harvest home--of whom they can say, “He has reached his autumn, we reap his golden produce, and we thank him in our hearts”; and in whose own spirit glimmers fair the moonlight of peace in the evening of life, the peace that is born of work completed, the humble, happy knowledge that can say, “Men will feed on my thoughts, my work shall nourish them, and God in whose strength I have lived, will garner all for me.” There is no blessedness in life to be compared with that; it is the true, unselfish joy of harvest.

2. There is a second aspect of autumn that follows upon the harvest. A fortnight ago I went into Epping Forest in the morning. The wind blew keen and strong through a cloudless sky: but a faint, fine mist was on the ground. The air was full of leaves that fluttered to their rest on the red earth and the dark green pools scattered through the wood. The grass was silver-sown with frosted dew, and the birds sang cheerily but quietly. Things were just touched with the breath of decay; one knew that the time of mirth, that even the harvest time was gone away; but the light was too fresh and the sky too bright for sadness. There was an inspiration of work in the air--of quiet, hopeful work--though the ingathering of the year was over. And looking through the thin red foliage of the trees, beyond the skirt of the wood, I saw the rest of the autumn work of man--two dark-brown fields of rich earth, the upturned ridges just touched with the bright footprints of the frost, and in one, looming large through the light mist, two horses drew the plough, and tossed a darker ridge to light, and in the other a sower was sowing corn. And I thought, as I beheld, that our autumn life is not only production, but preparation; not only harvests, but ploughing and sowing. It is not enough to have produced a harvest: we must make ready for a new harvest for men and for ourselves, and more for men than for ourselves. To do so for ourselves alone were selfish, and would defeat its end, for work with that motive has from the very beginning the seed of corruption in it, and the harvest it may reach will be cankered. To begin with one’s self is to end in fruitlessness. Begin, on the contrary, your work of sowing with the motive of Christ: “I do this for the love of men”; and you will then find that, without knowing it, and because you did not know or think about it, you have ploughed and sown in the noblest way for yourself. In the new spring time of God’s paradise, where only summer’s fulness, but never autumn’s decay is known, you will fulfil your being, and not one aspiration shall fail of its completion, not one failure but shall be repaired, not one yearning for truth but shall be satisfied, not one effort made here to bring forth a harvest, to plough the land of the world, to sow the seed of good and truth, but shall find at last a noble scope, and expand itself into an infinite sphere of labour. These are the hopes of autumn.

3. There is yet another aspect of autumn, and it is the aspect of decay. The evening falls, the damp air is chill, the mist rises, and the leafless trees are hooded in its ghostly garment. Our feet brush in the avenues through the thick floor of sodden leaves, and through the places we remember green and bright as paradise a low wind sighs in sorrow for the past. (Stopford A. Brooke, M. A.)

The doctrine of the harvest

I. THAT THERE IS A CERTAINTY OF A REGULAR RETURN OF THE NATURAL HARVEST, RESTING UPON THE UNCHANGEABLE PURPOSE OF GOD.

1. The harvest is a time of poetry, rich in meaning, full of beauty, and set to music by God Himself, the poetry of nature smiling in her loveliness and ripe fruition, accompanied by the music of the breeze, as it rustles among the golden ears of bearded grain, and enlivened by sounds of human gladness.

2. Harvest is a time of joy. Then is seen the fruit of long and arduous toil, the fulfilment of ardent hopes and doubtful promises.

3. It is not only the result of work and the triumph of work, but it needs work to secure its golden spoils. Labour is the price of securing as well as of cultivating the fruits of the soil? What more joyous occupation than gathering the fruits of the soil? Man is here a worker with God.

4. Harvest is a time for thankfulness. Whose is the earth we till? God’s. Whose the seed we sow? God’s. Whose the influences of the sunshine, rain, and air? God’s. Whose are the appointed laws by which the seed develops into the plant, and by which the plant bears the precious grain? God’s. Whose gift is the intelligence that wields the reaper and drives the team afield? God’s. All come from God.

II. THE NATURAL HARVEST REPRESENTS OTHER HARVESTS IN WHICH MEN HAVE A PART. Nature is a picture lesson for man to learn, and there are realities in the world of mind and man corresponding to her images.

1. There is a seed time and harvest in the history of man, analogous to that established by God in nature. Look over the record of the ages and do you not find that the exertions, the struggles, the sacrifices of the men in one age have produced results for the benefit of later generations? Who sowed the harvest of civilization which we are now reaping? Was it not the sages and the poets of ancient Greece, the lawyers and rulers of ancient Rome; the prophets and apostles, the martyrs and evangelists of the Jewish and of the early Christian Church? These were the men that sowed the seeds of law, of learning, of morality, and of religion; and we today, in conjunction with other Christian people, are reaping in our Christian civilization, with all its faults and deficiencies, still great and glorious, the fruit of all their toils, the rich results of their laborious exertions. To bygone ages, to bygone men, how much, then, do we owe! Ah! you cannot separate the ages. One sows, another reaps, and the world of man is richer.

2. There are seed time and harvest for every individual life. The young especially ought to remember that they are now to make those preparations without which age will bear but little fruit. Now is the season to deposit the store of knowledge in their memories as into genial soil, there to take root and germinate into blissful fruit, so that when future years come they may reap the harvest of ripened wisdom and be enriched with the results of work which has gone before, and looking into their minds, as into rich storehouses, they may view the accumulated thoughts, facts, and principles, which form the abundant harvest of their minds. Nor is it with knowledge and wisdom in secular affairs that the individual seed time and harvest should be solely concerned. The spirit requires cultivation. Seed time and harvest is also going on at the same time in the sphere of Christian experience. No sooner do we know the Saviour than we begin to reap the fruits of believing; every gain to our Christian knowledge, or effort of the Christian life, procures for us a greater benefit. We reap as we go on sowing and cultivating our immortal nature--sowing truth, love, and holiness, we reap present satisfaction, delight, and peace, and prepare the way for grander and richer harvests on high. And even in heaven the cultivation of our powers of love and wisdom will go on forever, and bring us increasing harvests of progress in all that is excellent and godlike--world without end.

3. But there is, strictly speaking, a spiritual harvest. And this spiritual harvest has a double aspect--as it respects the righteous, as it respects the wicked. Have you never seen the drunkard, the sensualist, the debauchee, sowing to the lusts of his flesh, nourishing, cultivating, pampering his passions and the brute-like instincts of his nature, and reaping in like kind, creating evil and degraded habits for himself, brutalizing and polluting his thoughts and his imagination, destroying his strength, and health, and manly beauty, and ruining his immortal soul? He is reaping what he sows. Have you never seen, on the other hand, the noble Christian, sowing to the higher life of the spirit, sowing love and kindness to all around him, to come back to him in a harvest of gratitude and affection; sowing intelligence and wisdom to be paid to him in happy thoughts, beautiful fancies, and glorious aspirations; sowing piety, and adoration, and devotion to God, and reaping here the peace that passeth understanding, joy in the Holy Ghost, sweet communion with God, and in the world to come, life everlasting. Let us be thankful for nature’s kindly law, the regular return of seed time and harvest, the ordinance of our covenant Jehovah, our loving Father in heaven. (E. E. Bayliss.)

The revolving seasons

This promise still holds good. It has never yet failed. It cannot fail, for it is the Word of God.

1. Common things are too often taken as matters of course. The Source and Author of them all is forgotten.

2. God not only orders all these things, maintaining them in constant succession, as He said He would, but He orders them in the best and wisest manner. He takes in at a glance the wants of all His creatures, foresees all the consequences, both near and far off, of what He does, and sends His dealings accordingly. A labouring man used to say, when he heard people complaining of the weather--“It is such weather as God sends, and therefore it pleases me.”

3. But all this concerns the present life only. May we not learn something from the text concerning the life to come? The very words carry our thoughts on to the future state. “While the earth remaineth.” This promise, then, sure as it is, is only for a time--“while the earth remaineth”; and the earth will not remain forever as it now is. A great change will come--a new heaven and a new earth. Then at length seed time and harvest will be no longer distinguished.

4. Not only the promise of the text, but every other promise that God has made, will be fulfilled. (F. Bourdillon, M. A.)

Lesson from God’s covenant faithfulness

One vast, magnificent purpose has kept everything in exact order during all these years of Divine fidelity. And the single point you need to observe most closely is this: He has expected every one of His creatures to be as faithful to a purpose as He has been. Take one of the most insignificant flowers in the meadow for an illustration. Let a naturalist tell you of the private history it has wrought out since the spring opened. Let him show you how the leaves were held out on either side, like palms of two hands, just to catch the falling showers in their hollow; how they drew in unreckoned moisture by a million ducts unseen, transmitting it hastily into their great laboratory; how they distilled it and mingled and separated it and saturated it with sunshine and with mould, until it was ready to be lodged upon the spot where it was needed as an increment of growth; how they laboured on thus for months, till the day arrived for a supreme effort to give forth a blossom; and then how they borrowed this little substance from the soil, and received that little substance from the atmosphere, and commissioned fluid messengers to go down to the roots for help; how they mysteriously wrought with exquisite skill the delicate tissues into new forms of beauty, until at last the petals and pistils came forward into life, and the field grew brilliant with a fresh flower. That entire meadow could go on repeating the lesson. Let us remember that each small spear and leaflet, when it found that its parent stalk no longer had need of it--indeed, would be better if it would put itself out of the way--quietly sacrificed itself for the general good, dropped off the stem to let sunshine come unhindered. So the seed--that one great, precious thing, the seed--had its chance to be fashioned and ripened to fulness and grace. You may learn thus very easily, by inquiring at each door of existence of Science, who is keeper of them all, that God has given for every one of His creations its fixed work in the orderly round of effort, as well as in the narrower circles of reciprocal duties. (G. S.Robinson, D. D.)
.

 


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Genesis 8:4". The Biblical Illustrator. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/genesis-8.html. 1905-1909. New York.

Commentary Navigator
Search This Commentary
Enter query in the box below
To report dead links, typos, or html errors or suggestions about making these resources more useful use our convenient contact form
Powered by Lightspeed Technology