Noah’s Rest

 

The following is a modification of the post “The Gospel Hope of Lamech” in order to draw upon the recent theme of rest that we’ve looked at in the posts: God’s Rest, Adam’s Rest, and Broken Rest.

 

28 When Lamech had lived 182 years, he fathered a son 29 and called his name Noah, saying, “Out of the ground that the Lord has cursed, this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the painful toil of our hands.” 30 Lamech lived after he fathered Noah 595 years and had other sons and daughters. 31 Thus all the days of Lamech were 777 years, and he died.

32 After Noah was 500 years old, Noah fathered Shem, Ham, and Japheth.” Genesis 5:28-32

 

The period between Adam and Noah is summarized in Scripture by 10 toledots, or generations, i.e. the “begots” in chapter 5 of Genesis.  Throughout this time man became increasingly wicked (Genesis 6:5) creating greater distance between God and man, and man and creation, specifically the continued fracture between man and the ground, initiated in the curse God levied against Adam.

In the passage above from Genesis 5, there is a noted expectation of relief, or rest, that comes by way of the prophetic words of Lamech, the father of Noah.  Recall that in the Old Testament there is usually significance given to the naming of children and this is especially true with Lamech naming his son Noah, which is similar in sound to the Hebrew word for “rest”.  Lamech’s expectation for his son is that he will bring a reversal to the curse levied against Adam, subsequently all mankind, and bring a fulfillment of the promised seed that would crush the head of the serpent, “Out of the ground that the Lord has cursed, this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the painful toil of our hands.”

The word translated “relief” by the ESV is literally the word rest, which corresponds to Noah’s name and shed’s greater light on the expectation that he would be the one to deliver the people from the “painful toil of our hands.”  Again, we must feel the weight of the curse, specifically with the background that Adam was originally created for worship and placed in the garden that brought forth food effortlessly, at the command of God.  Let’s look again at the curse that was directly given to Adam

“cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; 18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Genesis 3:17-19

Notice here that the curse given to Adam is intimately related to the toil of the ground or land through the labor of his hands.  God would no longer provide ease and abundance of fruit from the land, but now it would require painful effort on the part of man to overcome the obstacles of thorns and thistles, and through sweat, i.e. hard work, the land would yield harvest.

When combining the progressive depravity of man at this time and the multiplying effects of sin upon the ground, we can begin to see the great expectation of Lamech was for deliverance from this curse, “Out of the ground that the Lord has cursed, this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the painful toil of our hands.”  Clearly the words, and hope, expressed by Lamech are closely related to the words of the curse that God had levied against mankind.  A curse that was causing painful toil, hard work and labor, to bring forth food from a now cursed ground.

Lamech’s expectation is that out of the very ground that had been cursed one would come who would bring relief.  Like Eve before him, Lamech’s hope was in the fulfillment of God’s promise of a Redeemer who would crush the head of the serpent, though he specifically has an expectation of relief, literally rest, from the curse of the ground.  Further, he expects that this one from the ground will be his own child, Noah, who would bring about this rest.  Again, like Eve, we know that it was not through their immediate offspring that the fulfillment of God’s plan would come, but through the Promised One, Jesus Christ.

It’s certainly understandable in both the case of Eve and Noah that their hope in the promise of God would be fulfilled in their lifetime, but that was not God’s plan.  His plan for a Redeemer would unfold through the covenant promise given to Abraham, a kind of reminder of Genesis 3:15, and then through the people of Israel, culminating in the birth of Jesus Christ.

The expectation of Lamech highlights an additional point worthy of a brief discussion, namely that the ultimate Sabbath rest comes in Christ alone as detailed in Hebrews 3 & 4.  The Sabbath principle is far more than the 4th Commandment that has been a point of discussion and debate among theologians.  It’s a principle rooted and grounded in the character of God, revealed in the days of creation, longed for in the expectation of Noah, further developed in the Mosaic Law with Sabbaths and Jubilee, and ultimately finding its destination in the Lord Jesus Christ.

This passage from Hebrews is worthy of a separate study, but we may conclude a few things in relation to the expectation of Lamech.  From Lamech and the passage from Hebrews, we may observe the connection between the promised rest of God and the promised land of God.  We may conclude that it is only in Christ that believers may find their rest from not only the physical labors of their hands, but the spiritual labor against sin and attempts to earn salvation.  Through the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, to all believers, by way of Christ’s obedient fulfillment of God’s law, we may rest from all efforts to earn our justification.  Thereby we may now experience God’s Sabbath rest in Christ, even though, as in the days of Noah, we also look forward with eager expectation to the fulfillment of God’s promise to bring about our eternal, satisfying rest from all the toil of our hands in a cursed land, to a place of relief in the new heavens and new earth, that God Himself will prepare.

With regard to Noah and his father’s expectation, he did bring rest and relief from the land, but not in an ultimate, final sense as Christ will.  Upon the recedence of the flood waters of judgment, God makes a covenant with Noah,

20 Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and took some of every clean animal and some of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar. 21 And when the Lord smelled the pleasing aroma, the Lord said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done. 22 While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.”

Noah’s first action upon reaching dry land was to offering a sacrafice to God, with the clean animals that God had directed him to include on the ark.  Serving as priest in this “new creation” or even “new garden” if you will, Noah makes an atoning sacrifice to God, which is accepted and pleasing to God.  This term for pleasing, as the ESV Study Bible notes, “conveys the idea of tranquility and rest” and is “related to the Noah” which certainly ties back to the prophecy and expectation of his father Lamech, mentioned earlier in Genesis 5.

Additionally, in the midst of these covenant promises, we see God highlighting the progressive nature of sin in man, “evil from his youth” but also a restraint that God places upon the progressive curse on the ground, “I will never again curse the ground.”  In doing so, God promises stability.  Yes the original curse still remained on the ground, yes man still had to labor for food, as did Noah (Genesis 9:20).  However, God promised stability and consistency of seasons, a divine grace, to allow man the conditions necessary to bring forth food from the ground, “seedtime and harvest”.

Noah was afforded a fresh opportunity in a new garden, much like his great-grandfather Adam.  He was also given the same divine commands to assert dominion over creation and to be fruitful and multiply.  However, because of the indwelling presence of sin that the flood could not wash away, and despite these opportunities and commands, Noah also fell into sin after just a short time.  This in turn lead to the sin of his son and the pronouncement of a curse upon him and the people that would play a significant role in yet another opportunity for rest, the Canaanites.