GENESIS - CHAPTER 8
A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough
Copyright 2000 James Melough
Before continuing our studies in this eighth chapter of Genesis, it might perhaps be well to take a few moments to examine Noah’s experience in the Ark as a figure of baptism. It is Scripture itself that informs us that it is such a picture or figure, 1 Pe. 3:20,21, “... Once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the Ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”
As has been noticed already, it was Noah’s faith that saved him; the Ark was what resulted from his having faith to believe God, but without faith, the Ark would never have been built. It is the same with baptism. Divorced from faith baptism is a meaningless ritual. In submitting to this ordinance, the believer is simply giving tangible expression to the truth that through faith his old self is dead, having been crucified vicariously in Christ, and he now lives as a new creation associated with, and possessing the life of a resurrected Christ.
It is not the baptism that brings new life; faith alone does that. Baptism is the outward expression of what faith has produced just as the Ark was the tangible evidence of Noah’s faith: apart from his having faith to believe God the Ark would never have been built.
Chapter seven concluded with the words, “And the waters prevailed upon the earth an hundred and fifty days,” but chapter eight begins with the words, “... and God made a wind to pass over the earth, and the waters assuaged.” Chapter seven is the typical presentation of what is implied in the believer’s being under the baptismal waters, while chapter eight is the typical presentation of what is implied in his coming up out of those same waters. The first symbolizes his death, the second his new eternal resurrection life.
The instances of baptism recorded in the Scriptures, particularly in the book of Acts, make it very clear that baptism is to be by immersion. There is nothing in Scripture to authorize baptism by any other method, and the common practice of sprinkling robs the ordinance of its spiritual significance.
Having regard to what baptism represents, it is surely unnecessary to mention that the baptism of infants is a practice without any Scriptural warrant. Baptism is for believers, born again through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. And that new birth comes about through an act of the believer’s will, an act which is beyond the ability of an infant. No parent can believe for his child, and since he can’t, his appropriation of the ordinance of baptism to “dedicate” his child to God, or to symbolically declare his own expectation of the child’s conversion, is a presumption without Scriptural authority. Baptism is the convert’s own first step of obedience. No one can take it for him.
And now to begin our verse-by-verse study of chapter eight.
8:1. “And God remembered Noah, and every living thing, and all the cattle that was with him in the Ark; and God made a wind to pass over the earth, and the waters assuaged;”
In the previous chapter, God had remembered the rebellion of the wicked, and had recompensed it with judgment and death. He also remembered those who had faith to believe and obey, and was now about to recompense that obedience with life and blessing on a renewed earth.
There are many points of similarity between this chapter and chapters one and two. Genesis chapter one begins with the earth lying under a ponderous shroud of waters that had brought destruction to the pre-Adamite creation. Chapter eight begins with the earth again enveloped in a watery shroud covering the carcasses of the Adamic creation.
In chapter one, the Spirit (Heb. ruwach) of God moved upon the face of the waters as God began to bring order out of chaos. Here in chapter eight, “God made a wind to pass over the earth, and the waters assuaged.” The word that is translated wind is ruwach, the same word translated Spirit in chapter one. It was God the Holy Spirit who brooded over this destruction just as He had done over the pre-Adamic ruin; and the One who undid that ruin is the same God who now began to undo this.
Part of God’s reconstructive work in chapter one was to bring the dry land out from under the waters, and that step is repeated here in the present instance, for by the action of the wind (ruwach, Spirit), the waters began to diminish and the dry land appeared.
While there are remarkable similarities between the two restorations, there are also significant differences. One of those differences is that the pre-Adamic flood had destroyed all life forms; but following the Noahic flood, no creative act of God was necessary since He had preserved all life forms in the Ark.
Whatever other reasons there may be for the differences, one thing at least is clear - both restorations are pictures of redemption, but the emphasis is upon different aspects of that work. In the first, the emphasis is upon God’s bringing life out of death, and in the second, it is upon His preservation of that redeemed life in the midst of trial or judgment. The perpetuation of each species in the succeeding generations is, as already discussed, the symbolic announcement of the fact that the redeemed have eternal life.
In Genesis chapter one, the Holy Spirit had an essential part to play in the preparation of the earth as a dwelling place for the man who was to come from the hand of God as a new creation. The failure of that man and of his posterity had made necessary the judgment that had devastated the earth again. Man, now represented by Noah, stood figuratively on resurrection ground, and was again to assume dominion over the earth, and again it was through the activity of the Holy Spirit that the earth was prepared to be his habitation.
The creation of Adam, following the judgment that has destroyed the original creation, symbolizes the new birth by means of which man becomes a new creation. Noah’s being brought safely out of the judgment of the flood, sets before us another aspect of the new birth: it too follows judgment, but a judgment borne by another - the Lord Jesus Christ.
8:2. “The fountains also of the deep and the windows of heaven were stopped, and the rain from heaven was restrained.”
Having executed judgment upon those who had refused His grace, God now prepared to bless those who had obeyed His voice.
It is instructive to notice that judgment precedes blessing. The sinner cannot be blessed until he has seen by faith the Lord Jesus Christ as the One who has became his Substitute, and Who has borne his judgment in his stead, nor can the saint be blessed without the constant self-judgment of this life in the light of God’s word. Obedience is the prerequisite of blessing.
8:3. “And the waters returned from off the earth continually; and after the end of the hundred and fifty days, the waters were abated.”
At the end of chapter seven, we noticed the significance of the number 150: its factors are 2x3x52, i.e., testimony (2) linked to resurrection (3) combined with multiplied responsibility (5). Human responsibility is twofold: man is responsible to his fellows as well as to God.
The 150 days had produced unquestionable testimony to the fact that responsibility unfulfilled produces death which will be confirmed in all its awful eternal reality at the resurrection of death. But now those days were also to give testimony to the fact that responsibility fulfilled brings the reward of life. The physical life of Noah and his family is itself a symbol of resurrection since it is life that has been brought through and out of death.
Until the resurrection of life, however, the believer is in a position of responsibility, but the result of his success or failure in fulfilling that responsibility is different from what it was in his unconverted days. In his former state, the results were eternal life or eternal death, but in his new converted state, the result will be eternal loss or gain of reward at the Bema (judgment seat of Christ).
His new responsibility towards God and man is to reveal by his life that he stands spiritually on resurrection ground, living his life in anticipation of the resurrection of life when his faithfulness will bring an eternal reward.
8:4. “And the Ark rested in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, upon the mountains of
The waters had been upon the earth for five months (the OT year was one of 360 days made up of twelve 30 day months), yet Noah does not appear to have left the Ark for another seven months and ten days. Since the flood is symbolic of the Tribulation judgments, then the completion of the 150 days would represent the end of the Tribulation period, while Noah’s remaining in the Ark for a further seven months and ten days would indicate that there will be a short interval between the end of the Tribulation and the beginning of the Millennium.
Ararat means the curse reversed: precipitation of curse (to hasten the end of the curse). Recognizing that the Ark is a type of Christ, we can see in its coming to rest, a picture of the rest that results from His finished work. Having completed the work of refurbishing the earth which had been devastated by the pre-Adamic flood, God rested on the seventh day; and here, having survived the judgment that had overthrown the antediluvian world, the Ark (type of Christ) rested on the seventh month, and blessing (the reversal of the curse) began.
The seven (number of perfection or completeness) points to a completed work. When the Lord Jesus Christ emerged from the flood waters of divine judgment that had enveloped Him at Calvary, it was to rest, with all the redeemed, in His completed work. And the occupants of the Ark were able to rest also knowing that it had brought them beyond reach of judgment. This is simply a picture of the rest to be enjoyed by the believer, “For we which have believed do enter into rest” (Heb 4:3). That finished work of Christ has brought the believer spiritually to “Ararat” so that he can experience the reversal of the curse and enjoy instead the blessings of a God to whom he has been reconciled, “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.... we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son” (Ro 5:1,10).
8:5. “And the water decreased continually until the tenth month: in the tenth month, on the first day of the month, were the tops of the mountains seen.”
For nine months the waters had covered the earth, but the first day of the tenth month brought evidence that the waters were abating. Nine is 32 (number of resurrection), and having finished His work of judgment, God began to display Himself as the God of resurrection: out of the death of the old He would bring life.
Since ten is the number of God as the Governor of all things; and twelve (a month is the twelfth of a year), the number of that government on display, the lesson of this fifth verse is that that tenth month was the one in which the Creator would reveal, not only His power to deal with rebellion, but also His power to reward obedience.
The first day would direct attention to the number one, the number of God. On that first day, the Creator began to display Himself through His work. It might be presumed that those who had survived judgment would never again forget the character of the God who had spared them, yet the very next chapter reveals the nature of man: he is a fallen ruined creature, incapable of anything in his own power except sin and folly. Those who will be in heaven will be there by God’s grace, not by anything they themselves have done.
The appearance of the mountain tops may be symbolic as well as literal. Mountains, in Scripture, represent kings and/or kingdoms, and the significance of God’s causing the mountain tops to appear again may be to teach that though the kingdoms of the world may refuse to acknowledge the Creator, yet He is the One who gives them their very existence, “But God is the judge: He putteth down one, and setteth up another” (Ps 75:7).
8:6. “And it came to pass at the end of forty days, that Noah opened the window of the ark which he had made.”
Since forty is four multiplied by ten, these forty days speak of testing, and are meant to teach us that the new life brought out of the judgmental waters is also subject to testing. But since that life represents the new life of the believer, we are being taught that that life is also subject to testing. This raises the question as to why there should be such testing, and one reason can be dismissed immediately: God does not tempt men to sin, “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth He any man: but every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed” (Jas 1:13-14). God’s testings are like a refiner’s fire: they are designed to purge away the dross from the believer’s life so that the untarnished image of Christ may be more clearly seen in that man’s life.
The natural impulse would have been to open the window as soon as the Ark came to rest, but Noah waited forty days, and the implication appears to be that God had commanded him to do so. The forty days therefore, were a time of testing designed to reveal the measure of his obedience. The impatient prompting of nature would have been to open the window immediately, but the command of God was to wait for forty days. The evidence of Noah’s obedience was that he waited.
It is instructive to note that the very first recorded activity of Noah after the Ark had come to rest was that which resulted from what must have been a conflict between the voice of nature and the voice of God. It is simply the typical demonstration of the truth that conversion marks the beginning of a conflict between the old nature and the new in the believer’s life, and it is a conflict that will not cease while we are in the body. As Noah was required to choose whether he would obey the prompting of nature or the voice of God in the matter of opening the window, so is the believer continually called upon to choose between the voice of the old nature, and the voice of God expressed in the prompting of the new nature.
Romans chapter 7 deals with this conflict, and in verses 21-23 of that chapter, Paul writes, “I find then a law, that when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: but I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.”
The window is described as being “of the Ark which he had made,” and this brings together two aspects of Noah’s obedience. His waiting for forty days before opening the window manifested his obedience as a believer; but the Ark “which he had made” because he believed in God’s warning of coming judgment was the manifestation of his obedience as a sinner. There had to be the obedience that led him to build the Ark before there could be any obedience in regard to the window. It is folly to presume to obey any other of God’s commandments while leaving unfulfilled the first and most important, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved....”
8:7. “And he sent forth a raven, which went forth to and fro, until the waters were dried up from off the earth.”
The window which had been used to let light into the Ark now became the portal through which would go out two birds which are representative of the life within the Ark.
It is generally agreed that the raven represents the old nature; and the dove, the new; but it is interesting to note how, even in the symbol of the raven, the impeccability of Christ is preserved. As noted already, He is represented by the Ark which had borne the judgment, and Noah in the Ark represents the believer in Christ. But these two birds did not go out of their own volition: it was the man who sent them out. It is emphasized that they went forth from him rather than from the Ark, though of course they did go forth from the Ark also. The old nature is connected with man, not with Christ: His nature was divine. Man, however, even as a believer, still has his old corrupt nature, portrayed in the raven. The believer manifests by his life that there are two natures within him, and just as it was Noah who sent forth the two birds, so is it the believer, who by an act of his own free will, sends forth in his words (which express his thoughts), and in his deeds, that which evinces his obedience either to the impulse of the old nature or the new.
The accuracy of the type is indicated even in the order in which the birds were sent out: the raven was sent first. No more accurate picture could be painted. Even in a believer the old nature is almost invariably the first to be seen.
The character of the old nature is portrayed also in the activity of the raven: it “went forth to and fro” feasting on the carrion still floating in the water, using the Ark only of necessity until the waters had dried up. Such is the old nature. It will take advantage of God’s provision such as health or money, etc., but only for the purpose of enjoying sin in a world that lies under His condemnation.
8:8. “Also, he sent forth a dove from him, to see if the waters were abated from off the face of the ground;”
Much as the old nature will display itself in the believer’s life, nothing can stop the activity of the new nature. It too, will manifest itself, “also he sent forth a dove from him.” “Faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone” (Jas 2:17). The man who says he is a believer, but who displays no evidence of the new life in his daily living, is deceiving himself, “Faith without works is dead” (Jas 2:20).
The sex of the raven is not indicated, but the dove is a female, and just as the male represents activity of the will, the female represents passivity. God’s selection of a female dove in this instance may be to teach that yieldedness to the divine will is an indispensable part of the life that would display Christ.
In comparison with the raven which simply went “to and fro” without any apparent purpose, the dove went out for the express purpose of enabling Noah to determine whether the waters were abated. In this the two birds also display the character of the natures they portray. The raven represents the restless, useless activity of the old nature; the dove portrays the obedient, useful activity of the new.
When we remember that the dove represents not only the new nature, but also the Holy Spirit by whom that nature was begotten, we learn the additional lesson that the new nature, in the unhindered expression of itself, is also the expression of the divine nature. When the Holy Spirit is allowed to operate ungrieved and unquenched in the believer, then God’s will will be accomplished: Christ will be revealed in the believer’s life.
8:9. “But the dove found no rest for the sole of her foot, and she returned unto him into the Ark, for the waters were on the face of the whole earth: then he put forth his hand, and took her, and pulled her in unto him into the Ark.”
The dove could find no rest in an earth that lay under the judgment of God, nor can the new nature find rest in this world, for it, too, lies under the cloud of divine judgment. She continually returned to the Ark, but it should be noted that twice in this verse it is said that she returned “unto him (Noah) into the Ark.” She returned to a person as well as a place. It is a picture of the new nature. It, too, finds all it desires in a person - Christ, and in being in the place where He is. Significantly, in connection with the raven, it too returned to the Ark and to Noah, but that isn’t stated specifically: it is said only that it “went forth to and fro.” There is missing from its activity the implied submissiveness of the dove.
The believer, too, must spend time in a world that can afford him no rest; but, like the dove, he too can return to the “Ark” (Christ), and find himself no less welcome there than was the dove who found Noah’s hand outstretched to welcome her.
Another lesson connected with her returning to him is one we have noted already: the new nature is subject to the believer’s control. The Holy Spirit will rule the life only as the believer permits. Sadly, He is more often grieved and quenched than obeyed.
The spiritual counterpart of the dove’s returning to the Ark is the believer’s returning from necessary time spent in the world, to find rest and refreshment in the Lord’s presence both at the throne of grace, and in reading and meditating on the written word. The old nature will attempt to claim that time for the fulfillment of its own desires, but the believer who would enjoy his salvation will refuse to yield to its urging.
8:10. “And he stayed yet other seven days; and again he sent forth the dove out of the Ark.”
This further seven days of waiting before sending out the dove would teach us that in spite of what must have been very irksome to nature’s impatience, Noah was willing to wait until God’s time before attempting to leave the Ark. Emulation of Noah’s patience would save us from much wasted activity. That labor which employs us before God’s time, is as worthless as anything Noah might have attempted to do on an earth that was still covered with water. There was nothing he could do until those waters were dried up, and that was God’s own work, to be completed in His own time. Then, and only then, could Noah work, and in the meantime, he must wait.
The dove continued to play a part in his waiting. In a manner which God has chosen not to reveal, she somehow was essential to Noah’s comprehension of the divine will. She represents the Holy Spirit, and the lesson God would have us all learn from Noah and the dove is that the same Holy Spirit is essential to our comprehension of His will, for it is only through the Spirit’s enlightenment that we can understand the spiritual content of Scripture, through which God’s will is revealed. And while certainly it is He (the Holy Spirit) who reveals God’s will to us from the pages of Scripture, it is clear that in ways unknown to us, He works to accomplish God’s purposes, ordering circumstances to bring about just the right time for us to work, etc. The spiritual man who is willing to wait patiently for God to bring about “just the right time” rarely has trouble discerning when that “right time” has come.
Two aspects of the Holy Spirit’s work are brought before us in this chapter. In verse one, it is He, symbolized in the wind, Who is working to dissipate the waters; but it is also He, symbolized in the dove, Who brings to Noah the knowledge of the time when that work is done, so that the man may begin his work on the renovated earth. This is always the divine pattern, and he who ignores it will accomplish little of worth in the sphere of divine service.
8:11. “And the dove came in to him in the evening; and, lo, in her mouth was an olive leaf plucked off: so Noah knew that the waters were abated from off the earth.”
The mention of evening as the time when the dove returned to Noah bearing the token that told him the waters were abating, may be to direct our attention to the truth that the quiet of evening, when the work of the day is over, is a very good time to study God’s Word so that we may acquire greater knowledge of His will.
The simplicity of the Spirit’s method of communication is also revealed. The olive leaf in her mouth was all that was necessary to inform Noah that the waters were receding. Man’s communication of the information would have involved many words, but God used only an olive leaf.
We learn another lesson from the olive leaf. It was a symbol that conveyed a message from God to a man whose life was in harmony with heaven. Much of Scriptural truth is symbolically conveyed, and is unintelligible to the natural man, “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Co 2:14). The carnal believer, too, misses much of the Spirit’s communications because his eyes and ears are attuned more to the sights and sounds of earth than of heaven, his occupation with earthly things keeping him from acquiring the knowledge of God’s symbolic language.
8:12. “And he stayed yet other seven days; and sent forth the dove; which returned not again unto him any more.”
Noah had waited forty days before sending forth the dove. Then he waited another seven days and sent her forth again, and she returned with the olive leaf. There followed another seven days before he sent her forth for the third and last time. These time periods, connected with the sending out of the dove speak of resurrection for there were three such periods. The first, the forty days, speaks of testing; and the other two (number of witness) at intervals of seven days, testify to the perfection (seven) of all that God had done.
Since the days spent in the Ark, until the dove’s final departure, appear to represent the believer’s life on earth, the lesson of the three time periods is that it is a time of testing during which we are to bear witness to the perfection of the God we serve.
And since the dove is the symbol, not only of the Holy Spirit, but also of the spiritual character of the believer’s new life, then her final departure from Noah symbolizes the end of the believer’s life on earth.
8:13. “And it came to pass in the six hundredth and first year, in the first month, the first day of the month, the waters were dried up from off the earth; and Noah removed the covering of the Ark, and looked, and behold, the face the ground was dry.”
In Col 3:3 it is written, “Ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.” It is very evident, in view of this, that the life of those in the Ark, hidden from all save the eye of God, pictures the inward spiritual life of the believer, hidden also from all save the eye of God. By the same analogy, then, the removal of the covering following the final departure of the dove, would portray the revelation of that life at the Bema (judgment seat of Christ).
It is significant that this occurred in the six hundredth and first year, and on the first day of the first month of that year. Man’s life is related to the number six, and the six hundred years completed would speak of the end of man’s earthly life. Seven is the number of completeness and perfection, and as the seventh century of Noah’s life began with the removal of the Ark’s covering, it points to the perfection of the state to which the believer is introduced following the Bema. His earthly life (six) will give place to the perfection of heaven (seven).
The mention of the first month (a twelfth of the year) reminds us that the Bema is the place which will disclose our faithfulness or lack of it, in having manifested the government of God in our earthly lives. Its being the first day of that seventh century points to the beginning of the perfection that will be associated with what that century symbolizes in the present context - the eternal state in heaven.
There are two references in this verse to the dry condition of the earth. Since water was the instrument of judgment, the removal of that water would speak of judgment ended, and the two-fold reference to the earth’s dried state would point to two aspects of judgment completed and requiring no repetition. The first reference, before removal of the covering is the symbolic declaration of the believer’s state as a “new creation” through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ: the second, after removal of the covering, is the symbolic revelation of his state after the judgment of the Bema. Following that judgment the believer will stand eternally beyond any judgment.
8:14. “And in the second month, in the seven and twentieth day of the month, was the earth dried.”
This fourteenth verse adds its confirmation to the perfection of the believer’s eternal state. Its being the second month marks it as a time of witness. Its being a month (one twelfth of a year), marks it also as a time of revelation of God’s government, and its being the twenty-seventh day of that month invests it with the character of resurrection, for 27 is 33. The lesson being presented is that our eternal state will be that in which, in resurrection, we shall be everlasting witnesses to the perfection of God’s government. The practical application of that should result in our earthly lives being a similar witness.
8:15. “And God spoke unto Noah, saying,”
As we should expect, this marks the beginning of a new section. The days in the Ark were ended. The life that had been preserved in it was now to go out to begin a new life on a renewed earth. It pictures the eternal state of the believers of this present age; but since Noah and his family also represent the living survivors of the Tribulation age, it pictures also their passing from the terrible rigors of the Tribulation into the enjoyment of the millennial earth.
8:16. “Go forth from the Ark, thou, and thy wife, and thy sons, and thy sons’ wives with thee.”
This verse emphasizes that life is synonymous with what emerges from the Ark. Noah’s life would be perpetuated in the lives of his sons and their descendants, and God thereby teaches us symbolically that whether in regard to this age or the Tribulation era to follow, those who emerge from them as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ will also be the possessors of life that will be eternal. The blessings of the renewed earth, however, were only for those who had taken refuge in the Ark. God’s blessings are only for those who take refuge in Christ.
8:17. “Bring forth with thee every living thing that is with thee, of all flesh, both of fowl, and of cattle, and of every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth; that they may breed abundantly in the earth, and be fruitful and multiply upon the earth.”
The frequent references to the animal creation indicate that we are justified in taking the survivors of the flood as being representative of the believers who will survive the Tribulation judgments, though this view does not exclude their being also representative of all who find refuge in Christ. The animal creation will enjoy the blessings of the millennial earth, but there is nothing in Scripture to warrant the belief that the animal kingdom will have any existence beyond that which is earthly.
As has been noted already, however, in our study of Genesis 6:20, these three categories of the animal creation: fowl, cattle and creeping things, preserved to enjoy the renewed earth, may have symbolic reference to the completeness of redemption in the eternal state: man’s enjoyment of the eternal state will be in all three parts of his being - body, soul and spirit.
Their anticipated fruitfulness points to the character of resurrection life. It is that “more abundant” life promised by the Lord in John 10:10 “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”
8:18. “And Noah went forth, and his sons, and his wife, and his sons’ wives with him.”
It is interesting to notice the slight change in wording between this and verse 16. There the order is “thou, and thy wife, and thy sons,” but here it is Noah, and his sons, and then his wife.
The wife represents the expression of the new life of the believer, and the children represent the fruit that comes from that new life. But the sons represent also the perpetuation of man’s own life, and speak therefore, of the character of the new life that comes into existence through faith in Jesus Christ: it is eternal. In verse 16 the truth being symbolically announced is that Noah has spiritual life, the wife representing the expression of that life, but in verse 18 the emphasis is upon the character of that life: it is eternal.
There is an additional lesson connected with the order in which Noah’s family are described in this verse. We have noticed already that in their going forth from the Ark, God is presenting us with two pictures. One is of the entry of the living believers of the Tribulation age into the enjoyment of the Millennium; and the other is of the entry of the Church-age believers into the enjoyment of eternal blessings in heaven at the end of their earthly lives. And a third picture is that in which their departure from the Ark to begin life anew on the earth is but the typical presentation of what follows conversion. As Noah had found safety in the Ark, the believer has found safety in Christ. As Noah went out of the Ark to begin a new life on earth, the believer also goes out to begin a new life on earth. As for Noah, the things of the old creation had passed away, so for the believer also the things of the old creation have passed away. And as he begins to live that new life, it is to be governed by the principles symbolically annunciated in the order of departure from the Ark. Noah’s sons are mentioned first. They speak not only of the eternal character of the new life, but they speak also of the energy of the will employed in the outliving of that life. The renewed man is to devote all of his energy to living for God.
As sons represent the energy of the will, daughters represent the passivity of the will, and the need for both in the Christian life is portrayed in the life of the Lord Jesus Christ. We see the energy of His will when He drove the traders out of the temple, but we see also the perfect passivity of His will in the Garden of Gethsemane when He prayed, “O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from Me except I drink it, Thy will be done” (Mt 26:42).
8:19. “Every beast, every creeping thing, and every fowl, and whatsoever creepeth upon the earth after their kinds, went forth out of the Ark.”
We have already considered that the exodus of the animal creation from the Ark on to the renewed earth seems to confirm that the prophetic aspect of this section relates to the believers of the Tribulation period who survive its horrors and who remain on the earth to enjoy the Millennium.
Another viewpoint, however, from which to view the exodus of the animal creation from the Ark, is that discussed in verse 18 where the exodus of Noah and his family has been taken as a picture of the beginning of the believer’s new life here on earth. In that context the preserved animal creation represents the believer’s old nature. As Noah was to rule over that animal kingdom, so is the believer to rule over his old Adamic nature.
Those creatures were divided into two classes: some, either domesticated or in their wild state, could be made to serve man, but others would never be anything except his enemy, ready to kill him when opportunity presented itself. Such is the old nature. A part of it can, and must be made to serve the new man, but all of it must be ruled over, for even the bullock which can serve man best, will also gore him to death. The old nature does not serve willingly, but, like the animal creation, domestic as well as wild, is characterized by reluctance to serve man, or by active enmity towards him. The new man in Christ is to rule over the old nature which goes forth with him while he is here upon the earth. The existence of the animal creation, confined as it is to the earth, would teach us that the activity of the old nature is confined also to the earth. It will not follow us into the eternal state.
The variety of the animal life that went forth from the Ark would teach us something of the variety of the old nature’s activities. The necessity for vigilance against those activities surely needs no stressing.
8:20. “And Noah builded an altar unto the Lord; and took of every clean beast, and every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar.”
It is instructive to note that Noah’s first activity on the renewed earth was to build an altar, which speaks of worship. God would teach us in this that worship should have first place in the life of the renewed man. It takes precedence over service, and it is because of this that God has appointed the first day of the week as the one in which believers are to come together to engage in corporate worship as they eat the Lord’s supper, as it is written, “And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread....” (Ac 20:7).
Noah’s altar was the tangible expression of his inward state. He was grateful for God’s mercy, and his offering was the expression of that gratitude. Worship is an accurate barometer of a believer’s spiritual condition. The facade of service may be kept up long after the love of the heart has cooled, but it is not so with worship for that is a realm where what is false cannot go for long undetected by spiritual believers.
It is recognized that what passes in much of Christendom as a “worship” service, is not according to God’s order, and cannot, therefore, measure either spiritually or lack of it. For this very reason, then, we shall take a moment to outline very briefly what does seem to be the Scriptural order for worship.
As to the time, it is to be on the first day of the week, not at a longer or shorter interval as man may choose.
It is only for those who have been “born again” through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. No unbeliever can worship.
As to the place, it can be anywhere, for “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Mt 18:20). And the activity of those gathered is to be in obedience to the Lord’s directions. Women, young as well as old, are to have a covering, other than their hair, upon their heads (l Co 11:1-16). While woman are not permitted to offer their worship audibly, men are, but only as the Holy Spirit leads them.
The need of a “minister” or “priest” to “lead the worship” is completely foreign to Scripture. Every believer is a priest, see e.g., Re 1:6; 1 Pe 2:5, 9, privileged to present his worship directly to the Father without any intercessor other than our great High Priest, the Lord Jesus Christ.
As to the “ritual,” there is none. Believers simply gather around a table having upon it bread and wine, the divinely appointed symbols of the Lord’s body and blood. Since the Lord Himself presides at that table, directing the activities through His Holy Spirit, human leadership is unnecessary. There, under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, prayer, Scripture and song, used to express our appreciation of Christ, are blended together into a spiritual fragrance (the spiritual counterpart of the literal incense offered by Israel on the golden altar) which is pleasing to God. Just as any departure from the divine prescription would have marred the perfection of Israel’s worship, so failure to heed the Spirit’s leading as we sit at the Lord’s table, will mar the perfection of our worship. Hence the statement that worship is the barometer of our spiritual condition. Spiritual believers have no trouble discerning what proceeds from the Holy Spirit, and what comes only from the activity of the flesh.
An altar, however, implies sacrifice, and sacrifice implies cost. Noah was willing to take the time and to do the work to build the altar and prepare the sacrifice. It is the same with worship. If we are going to have anything to present to God when we meet together on the first day of the week to eat the Lord’s Supper, we must be willing to take the time to make the necessary preparation. When Araunah offered David everything that was necessary for the presentation of a sacrifice, David refused, saying, “Nay, but I will surely buy it of thee at a price; neither will I offer burnt offerings unto the Lord my God of that which doth cost me nothing” (2 Sa 24:24). It cost God much to redeem us. Our appreciation is measured by what it costs us to bring him the thank offering of our worship.
Noah worshipped because he had been delivered from the judgment of the flood. Worship must surely be the response of every redeemed heart for deliverance from a far more terrible judgment: the death of God’s Son has delivered us from the lake of fire.
He worshipped as he beheld the death of creation. At the Lord’s supper we have infinitely greater reason to worship, for in the bread and wine we behold the symbolic death of the Creator!
Only the clean of bird and beast could be offered to God, for they represented the Lord Jesus Christ, something the unclean could not do. In this we learn that worship consists, not of the presentation of requests to God, but of the presentation of His Son. But how do we present Christ to God? Simply by expressing in prayer, Scripture and song what we think of Him. In Israel, He was represented in every animal or bird placed on the literal brazen altar, as He was also in the incense burned on the golden altar. Those literal altars and sacrifices, however, have been replaced with spiritual. The worshipper today comes to the table upon which the Lord is represented in the bread and wine; and the literal smoke of the burning incense has been replaced with the invisible incense of the redeemed heart’s occupation with Christ, expressed in prayer, Scripture and song.
He offered “burnt offerings”. It was the fire that transmuted the offerings into the smoke which ascended towards heaven. The fire is the symbol of the Holy Spirit, and in Noah’s burnt offering, God would teach us that prayers, Scripture readings and hymns are simply meaningless words, unacceptable to Him, unless they are the Holy Spirit’s transmutation of what overflows from a grateful redeemed heart.
8:21. “And the Lord smelled a sweet savor; and the Lord said in His heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake; for (though) the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every living thing as I have done.”
It was not the sight of an earth that had been devastated by His judgment that evoked this pronouncement from God: it was the altar and the sacrifice burning upon it, for they figuratively carried God’s eye to Calvary where alone the redemption of a ruined creation could be accomplished. It was not the stench of a dead creation that enabled God to say, “I will not again curse ... neither will I again smite.” Though all creation had perished, the earth that emerged from under the waters of judgment was exactly the same as it had been before; nor was the humanity that would spring from those who had emerged from the protection of the Ark, any different from that which had died. The earth was still under the curse because it was still corrupt, and the heart of fallen man was unchanged, every imagination of that heart was still evil.
Nothing less than the death of the Creator could remove the curse from creation, and nothing less than the death of the Son of God, become Son of Man, could change man’s evil heart. Only the obedient death of the last Adam could undo the ruin introduced by the disobedience of the first Adam. God anticipated that death in the clean creature burning on Noah’s altar.
His assurance that He would not again “smite any more every living thing,” was given in anticipation of that day when His stroke would fall upon the Creator, His Son the Lord Jesus Christ.
8:22. “While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.”
God uses four sets of opposites to describe what will characterize this earth until that day when it is replaced with the new earth, and the imperfection of what belongs to time will give place to the perfection of the eternal state.
Four is the number that speaks of the earth in connection with testing. Accordingly therefore, we find in these four opposites that which transcends the literal and points to the character of man’s life on earth. It is a time of spiritual testing resulting in eternal consequences.
Seedtime and harvest will continue spiritually as well as literally, “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting” (Ga 6:7,8).
As the character of the harvest is governed by the nature of the seed sown, so also is the amount of the harvest, “He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully” (2 Co 9:6).
The immediate context of the Corinthian letter has to do with the believer’s liberality or lack of it in giving back to God, but the principle applies no less to the sowing of the unbeliever. His punishment will be in proportion to the amount of his sin, “Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden underfoot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?” (Heb 10:29). This verse teaches in unmistakable language that the man who knows the way of salvation, and deliberately rejects it, qualifies himself for a terrible measure of eternal punishment.
Like everything else in nature, seedtime and harvest are designed by the Creator to turn man’s thoughts to the spiritual harvest he must reap in eternity from what he sowed during his earthly life.
Cold and heat are also intended to instruct man. Cold is connected with death, as heat is with life, and God would have man consider that by natural birth he is spiritually dead, and needs to have a second spiritual birth in order to have spiritual life, without which he cannot hope to enter heaven. Unless that cold spiritually lifeless state is exchanged for the warmth of spiritual life, man will exist in the eternal torment of the lake of fire. It was the Lord Jesus Christ Himself who warned three times over of the terrible consequences of passing into eternity without having had that spiritual birth that gives eternal life, “It is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched” (Mk 9:43).
Summer and winter would add their voice of warning. As the life that flourishes in summer dies in the icy blast of winter, so will the brief “summer” of man’s life on earth give place to an eternal “winter” if he comes to the end of that life without having accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as his Savior.
Day and night are also intended to instruct man. He who comes to the end of life’s brief day on earth without having received spiritual light from Him Who is the Light of the World, will go out into an eternal night. Jude 13, warns that for those who die in their sins there, “is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever.”
Earth, however, is the place of testing for the saint as well as the sinner, and for the one as for the other, the consequences are eternal. For unbelievers there will be degrees of eternal punishment in the lake of fire, but for believers there will be degrees of eternal reward in heaven.
As the harvest of life’s sowing will be reaped by the unbeliever at the great white throne, that of the believer will be reaped at the Bema.
Another aspect of the believer’s earthly life related to seedtime and harvest is that which has to do with the good seed of the Gospel. The Lord Himself has commissioned His own, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature” (Mk 16:15). The abundance of that harvest will also be in proportion to the liberality of the sowing, “He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly....”
Cold and heat have their application also to the life of the believer. In proportion as the love for Christ is hot or cold so will He value the service rendered to Him. In the letter to the Ephesian church in Re 2, the Lord mentions their works, labor and patience. Those works had once been works of faith, the labor a labor of love, and the patience a patience of hope, but by the time the Revelation letter was written to the Ephesian church the faith, love and hope were gone. The formality of service remained, but the Lord’s rebuke was, “Thou hast left thy first love.”
The lesson of summer and winter applies also to the believer’s life. He who spends his days in the vain pursuit of pleasure will find the enormity of his folly measured by the meagerness of his reward at the Bema.
Day and night likewise have their instruction for the believer. The same Scriptures which inform him that he is a child of light, 1 Th 5:5, remind him also that light can have no communion with darkness, 2 Co 6:14. He is exhorted to “...cast off the works of darkness,” (Ro 13:12), and to walk as a child of light, (Eph 5:8).
In spite of our high standing in Christ, and in spite of the warnings against practicing the works of darkness, the sad truth is that we may forget both the standing and the warning and live as those who are still in spiritual darkness.
The Corinthian believers who were spending their days in just this manner were warned by Paul to live in anticipation of the Lord’s return when he would, “bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and make manifest the counsels of the hearts” (1 Co 4:5).