GENESIS IN THE
LIGHT OF THE NEW TESTAMENT
(CHAPTER. Vi.Xi. 9.)
To Noahs life, as a type, the third chapter of the
first epistle of Peter is the key. His bringing through the flood is there
declared to be a type of "salvation," but salvation of a fuller kind than
ordinarily is reckoned such. The figure is a simple one enough to follow in thc
main, and will itself guide us if we cleave closely to it.
For, plainly, the ark is Christ, and the flood it saves through is the judgment of the whole world, which perished in it, while those preserved are brought through to a new world which emerges from the waters, and where the sweet savour of accepted sacrifice secures a perpetuity of blessing.
It is the third stage of new life as apprehended by the soul, resurrection therefore, as bringing in the place of which it is said, "If any man be in Christ, [it is a] new creation: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new;" - words which remarkably correspond to Noahs position as come through the flood, making allowance for that essential inferiority of type to antitype which we have often had to refer to as a necessary principle for true interpretation.
Noah is evidently not the type of a sinner, taken up as such, nor could he be, to stand in the place he does in these biographies. He is a just man, a Cornelius rather, a type of those who, quickened and converted though they be - " fearing God and working righteousness " - need yet to know the salvation which the gospel brings.
In the world around, corruption is total and universal. The judgment of the whole is pronounced, with one way of escape, and only one, left open to the man of faith.
The ark is built of gopher-wood. We know not this "gopher," but the resemblance is remarkably close to the "copher" or "pitch " named afterward, and the resemblance has been noticed by many. On account of it the gopher has been of old believed to be the cypress, and might well have furnished the "pitch" also for the vessels seams. The type would thus correspond more fully to the antitype, for there need be no doubt but that the gopher, like the shittim-wood of the tabernacle-ark, refers to Christ, while "copher" is the word used elsewhere for "atonement." That the tree should be cut down to provide a refuge from the waters of judgment was not enough, the seams must be pitched with the pitch the tree supplied. And so death, as mere death, even though Christs, would not have been enough to put the soul in security that fled to Him for refuge. The only blood, as the apostle teaches, that could be carried into the presence of God for sin, was the blood of a victim burned without the camp.t The place of distance due to the sinner and the unclean had to be taken by the Holy One of God, in order to our salvation. In such an ark we, with Noah, may make "nests" (for so, instead of "rooms, the margin more literally reads). The love that has provided all gives niore than security; the house of refuge is not mere bare walls; amid the very storm of judgment the heart that craves may find its lodgment where more than a fathers care, more than a mothers tenderness, are found.
t For there seems no Scriptural proof or otherwise of "copher" being bitumen, although the Septuagint and Vulgate translate it so and most modern interpreters follow these.
f And here, upon the ground - without an altar. The altar, as what "sanctifies the gift," is doubtless the person of the Lord, as what gave value to His work; but in the sin-offering the altar is not seen, for the victim stands in the sinners place, and is treated as if he were not the person that He really is.
The door of the ark was in the side, but the window above.* It is no new thing to say that this is faiths outlook. The passengers in that marvelously guided and protected vessel needed not their eyes for pilotage, and were not to look out upon the solemnities of the judgment taking effect around; while the waters, which were the grave of the world, floated them above its mountain-tops up to the blue heavens, calming as they rose. What a season for them - shut in by God, with God! and what a preparation for commencing that new life which they were to begin in the world beyond the flood!
And many may recall a not less solemn time, when they too, having fled for refuge from the storm of coming wrath, were made to pass through the worlds judgment, and to find in Him who, dead for them and risen, has passed into the heavens, their own escape, not from judgment merely, but from the whole scene of it. They have come in Christ through the floods which fell on Him alone, and in Him have reached a "new creation," old things passed away, and all things become new.
For even Christ (as the apostle tells us) we know no more after the flesh. Plainly, the only Christ there is to know, is one no more found among men; and if our being "in Him" means any thing, it means this: identification with Him who stands as really for us in the glory of the heavens as once for us He hung upon the cross.
* This has been contested, but seems undoubtedly the meaning of the passage. And it is confirmed by the fact that not tilll Noah removed the covering of the ark could he seee that the ground was dry.
It must be remembered that not sense nor experience brings
us there. Even Noah may have heard or seen little, if any thing, of that which
he passed through; but none the less real was that eventful passage. For us,
faith alone can make us realize a plan as to which "eye hath not seen, nor ear
heard, neither have entered into the heart of man" what nevertheless the Spirit
of God through the Word has revealed to us. We are there (if in Christ) apart
from all experience; and what experience we are to have of it will be the fruit
of, and in proportion to the vigour of, our faith alone.
The ark grounds upon the mountains of Ararat, and not long afterward occurs the well-known incident of the raven and the dove. As a type, this shows us how little is forgotten or denied in these Genesis-biographies, what we practically are, conscious as we may be of our place in Christ Jesus. Saved out of the world, and no more of it, we yet carry with us and may let out the raven. We have that in us which can take up with a scene of death from which the waters of judgment have not yet dried up, and like the unclean bird use the ark but as a means of pursuing with the more vigour its congenial occupation.* Noah first sends forth the raven, but, as others have noted, he distrusts it and sends forth the dove; but the dove finds no rest for the sole of her feet, and returns unto him into the ark. Seven days after, she goes forth again, and returns with an olive-leaf, the assurance of peace and of the fruitfulness of the new world.
*"Went forth, going and returning" (chii. 7, marg.) seems to indicate this.
Shortly after, but at the word of God, and not at the suggestion of his own mind, Noah goes forth, and the first-fruits of the place into which he as been brought is an altar from which the smoke of a burnt-offering goes up, - a savour of rest to Jehovah. Neither altar nor burnt-offering have we had before, and who can doubt the suitability of their first mention here? For the altar is the person of Christ - that which gave its value to His blessed work, and the burnt-offering is that aspect of His work in which its value Godward is most fully shown. And here, in the new-creation scene pictured for us in this chapter, surely we know in a new way and with a new blessedness, not merely salvation, but the Saviour; and not merely the human side of that salvation - its result for us, but its divine side - its Godward result. The knowledge of the salvation sets us free to be occupied with the Saviour; and He who cannot be known now after the flesh (for He is risen and with God) can only be apprehended justly when we have been brought from off the ground of the world that rejected Him, to find our true place where He is, - in the light, where He is the light, and the glory in His face is the true test and discovery of all else.
"And Jehovah smelled a savour of rest; and Jehovah said jn His heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for mans sake, for the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done." Thus the hopelessness of expecting anything on mans part, which was before the flood the reason for his judgment, is now, through the efficacy of accepted sacrifice, but a reason for setting man aside altogether as a hindrance of blessing and of establishing it in perpetuity upon an unchangeable basis. The new creation thus abides forever in bloom and beauty of which the earth under the Noachian covenant is but indeed a shadow.
The heirs of this inheritance find next their own blessing. Their fruitfulness is certainly not more an injunction than a gift of the grace which is now manifesting itself for them (ix. i.). And so in what these types speak of.
Then their authority over the lower creatures is restored: the fear and dread of man is to be upon every beast of the earth, and upon all that moves, and they are delivered into his hand. All things are his, and even death itself is now to furnish him with food. This is a fact of the deepest significance; it is death ministering to life, a principle of which God would keep us in constant remembrance. Scarcely a meal but thus testifies to us of the very basis of all real gospel, which the Lords supper fully and formally declares. But it is only after known deliverance, and in the new place with God that this can be rightfully understood. We now go farther than the type, and overpass the restriction here imposed: we drink the blood also; that which is Gods only as atonement (for "it is the blood that maketh atonement for the soul") is ours to sustain and cheer us as atonement made. "The cup which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ?"
Thus are they set in the fullness of blessing: delivered, brought into a scene secured to them irrespective of their own desert, fruitfulness assured sovereignty of the whole bestowed, and death itself put into their possession and made to minister to their sustenance with all else. And now coming in, in its due and fitting place, the question of responsibility for judging the deeds of the flesh, for which before they were incompetent. When Cain shed his brothers blood, in the old world now passed away, God set a mark upon Cain, lest any one finding him should kill him; whereas now, in this new world, God speaks far otherwise: "And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man. Whoso sheddeth mans blood, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God made He man."
This is evidently the principle of all human government, which began from this date, established by God Himself. We have its history shortly epitomized for us in Noahs weakness and want of self-government, which exposes him to the scorn of those whom he should have governed; and on the other hand, in Nimrod, high-handed power, abused to satisfy the lust of ambition and self-will. Yet the powers that be are ordained of God, while for the abuse of power, or for the inability to use it, they are accountable to Him.
On the other side of the flood also (in the typical sense) we are set in authority, for the use of which we are responsible to God. Power is in our hands from God to judge the deeds of the flesh, which before deliverance we could not judge, and to vindicate the image of God in which we have been created. And to this is appended once more the blessing of fruitfulness, which, however it be of God and of grace, is yet not possible to be attained where nature is unjudged.
Lastly, the covenant is ratified, and a token given to confirm it. The bow in the cloud is mans assurance; but it is more, it is Gods memorial of the new relationship into which He has entered with His creatures. His eye, and not mans only, is upon the bow, and thus He gives them fellowship with Himself in that which speaks of peace in the midst of trouble, of light in the place of darkness; and what this bow speaks of it is ours to realize, who have the reality of which all figures speak.
"God is light," and "that which doth make manifest is light." Science has told us that the colours which everywhere cloth the face of nature are but the manifold beauty of the light itself. The pure ray which to us is colourless is but the harmonious blending of all possible colours. The primary ones - a trinity in unity - from which all others are produced, are, blue, red, and yellow; and the actual colour of any object is the result of its capacity to absorb the rest. If it absorb the red and yellow rays, the thing is blue; if the blue and yellow, it is red; if the red only, it is green; and so on. Thus the light paints all nature; and its beauty (which in the individual ray we have not eyes for) comes out in partial displays wherein it is broken up for us and made perceptible.
"God is light;" He is "Father of lights." The glory, which in its unbroken unity is beyond what we have sight for, He reveals to us as distinct attributes in partial displays which we are more able to take in, and with these He clothes in some way all the works of His hands. The jewels on the High-Priests breastplate - the many-coloured gems whereon the names of His people were engraved were thus the "Urim and Thummim" - the "Lights and Perfections," typically, of God Himself; for His people are identified with the display of those perfections, those "lights," in Him more unchangeable than the typical gems.
In the rainbow the whole array of these lights manifests itself, the solar rays reflecting themselves in the storm; the interpretation of which is simple. "When I bring a cloud over the earth," says the Lord, "the bow shall be seen in the cloud; and I [not merely you] will look upon it." How blessed to know that the cloud that comes over our sky is of His bringing! and if so, how sure that some way He will reveal His glory in it! But that is not all, nor the half; for surely but once has been the full display of the whole prism of glory, and that in the blackest storm of judgment that ever was; and it is this in the cross of His Son that God above all looks upon and that He remembers.
Still the principle is wider, and in every season of distress He does surely at last display His glory. At last the storm is blended with the brightness; and this too is a token of the covenant of God with His people that not destruction, but their blessing, His nearer manifestation and their better apprehension of it, is the meaning of the storm.
(2.) - Chapter 15. 18 - 51. 9. The story of the deliverance closes here, and we now come to a very different, in many respects a contrasted, thing - the history of the delivered people. The history begins with failure; it ends with confusion, and from the gracious hand that but now delivered them. It is the humbling lesson of what we are, but which we have now to read in the light of what He is. This will make indeed the shadows deeper, but we can face them in the knowledge that God is light and in Him no darkness; and that for us, too, "the darkness is passing, and the true light already shines."
First, Noah fails, the natural head of all; and sin thus afresh introduced propagates itself at once in his family, and becomes the curse of Canaan and his seed. Noahs snare is the abundance of the new-blessed earth, a thing not easy to understand typically until we see (what will be more fully before us when we come to Abrahams life) that it is the earthly side of the heavenly life we have to do with in the succeeding histories. Thus Abraham is in Canaan as a pilgrim and a stranger, a thing that in our Canaan (for no one doubts, I suppose, what Canaan means) is an absolute impossibility; yet the earthly side is pilgrim and strangership, and the two things thus linked together derive a meaning from their connection they would not have alone. Just so with Noah; the earth side of the typical heavenly life is Nazariteship, and Noah falling from his Nazariteship exposes himself to his shame. The fall tests his children, as the presence of sin still tests the spirit of those who deal with it. Ham in further exposing it to his brethren reveals himself, not taking it as his own, while Shem and Japheth cover, without looking upon, their fathers nakedness. "Ham" is "black," - the unenlightened - or perhaps rather the "sun-burnt," - scorched and darkened by the very light itself; for light, if not received as light, becomes a source of darkness to the soul. And Ham is the father of Canaan, - the "trader," as his name imports. The parentage of evil in the professing church seems thus traced, even as in the world before the flood, to one who goes out from the presence of the Lord, only darkened and branded by the light in which he had found no pleasure. Canaan is in the professing church its fruit - the trader in divine things, who may be found in the land, and even in the "house of the Lord," but everywhere true to his unhappy character: "bondsman of bondsmen and no free-born child of light, he is finally driven out of the house which he has made a den of thieves, and finds his true place in Babylon the Great, whose "merchants are the great men of the earth."
Of Noahs two other sons we seem to read in their various blessing two tendencies which are apt to be sundered, and should not. Shems is the recipient contemplative life, whose danger it is to run into the mystical; Japheths, the practical, energetic life, which in its one-sideness tends to divorce itself from faith. In the blessing of Shem, it is Shems God, Jehovah, who is blessed, as it is indeed the highest blessedness of faith that it has God for its portion and its praise; while Japheths blessing is in enlargement, and in dwelling in Shems tents, for the practical life finds its home in faith alone, and true service is but worship in its outflow toward men.
Of the genealogies which follow in the tenth chapter I shall say - can indeed say - little. We may notice that the Egyptian (Mizraim) is also a son of Ham, the darkness of nature (as we speak) being not so much defect of, as resisted, light. The Philistines, too, are Egyptians, as we may by and by more consider. Then Nimrod, the son of Cush, the "rebel," as his name imports, the beginning of whose kingdom is in Babel, points too plainly to the apostate king of the last days to admit much question. Let us now proceed, however, to look at Babel itself, with the account of which this section closes. Here, without doubt, too, Babylon the Great is pictured, although not in the full development in which we look at it in Revelation xvii, xviii.
The account is remarkable for its clearness and simplicity. The process by which the professing church settled down in the world, and then built up for itself a worldly name and power, could scarcely be more fully or in plainer terms described. How with one consent they turned their backs upon the sunrise (2 Pet. i. 19.), and leaving the rugged and difficult places in which they were first nurtured - too painful for flesh and blood - descended to the easier if lower level of the world,* - how settling there, ease and abundance wrought in them desire to possess themselves in security of the earth and make themselves a name in it; how Babylon thus was built, "a city," after Cains pattern, whose builder and maker God was not, and a "tower" of strength, human and not divine; all this he that runs may read. Let us notice further, that this is a carnal imitation and anticipation of Gods thoughts, and that thus the earthly city usurps the titles and prerogatives of the heavenly one. But Babylon cannot be built of the "living stone," which is the God-made material for building; they have moved from the quarries of the hills, and must be content to manufacture less durable "brick" out of the mere clay which the plain affords: they have brick for stone and slime (or bitumen) for mortar - i.e., not the cementing of the Spirit, the true Unifier, but the worldly and selfish motives which compact men together, and are but fuel for the fire in the day "the fire shall try every man's work of wnat sort it is.
* The meaning of Shinar is considered uncertain. Among others possible is that of "waking sleep," which would at least be very appropriate.
This was what makes a figure in mens histories - the Catholic Church of antiquity, singularly one indeed, whether you look at it in Alexandria or Constantinople or Rome, were most fully developed. The unity whereof it boasted was not Gods, and if God came down to see what man was building, it was not to strengthen, but to destroy - not to compact, but scatter. The many tongues of Protestantism are but His judgment upon the builders of Babel; its multitudinous sects but the alternative of the oppressive tyranny with which when united she laid her yoke upon the minds and consciences of men, and under which the blood of the saints ran like water. They are but a temporary hindrance, moreover, for when the antitypype of Nimrod shall make it the beginning of his kingdom, Babylon shall sit as a queen, anticipating no widowhood and no sorrow. Then, however, her doom shall be at hand, "in one day shall her plagues come upon her."
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