April 17, 2024

He Will Give Us Rest

Sinclair Ferguson
He Will Give Us Rest

Lamech spoke hopefully of his son Noah, “Out of the ground that the LORD has cursed, this one shall bring us relief” (5:20). Today, Sinclair Ferguson explains that the true rest pictured in Noah would be provided in Christ.


We’ve been reflecting together this week on Things Unseen about what’s sometimes called the protoevangelium, the first promise of the gospel recorded in Genesis 3:15. It’s a bit like a tightly wound ball of thread that’s slowly unwound by God through the whole of the Old Testament. At times, it looks as though the thread has snapped. Other times it seems to become invisible, but then it reappears again.

Yesterday, we saw that Eve seems to have hoped that her firstborn son, Cain, might be the deliverer, but he turned out to be a murderer who belonged to the seed of the serpent, not the seed of the woman. And then as the story of the promised seed continues, generation after generation seems to end not in final victory and life but in death.

Remember the drumbeat running through Genesis 5: “And he died. And he died. And he died. Adam died. Seth died. Enosh died. Jared died. Methuselah died. Lamech died.” There’s only one missed beat in the description of Enoch, who “walked with God, and he was not, for God took him” (v. 24). But even if that meant he didn’t die in the same way others did, not even Enoch was the promised conqueror.

But while the godly seed continued, so did the seed of the serpent, and in Genesis 6:5, we come to some of the darkest words in the whole Bible: “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” And then came what Genesis 6:7 calls the “blotting out” of man—the flood.

Now, it looks as though God’s patience has been exhausted and He has decided to call time on His promise and just end it all. Could it be that the words to the serpent didn’t mean salvation, but the mutual destruction of both seeds? Even if the serpent’s head was crushed, would the seed of the woman just slowly bleed to death from the heel?

But despite the drumbeats of “he died” we come across another boy who was given an unusual name: “When Lamech had lived 182 years, he fathered a son 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’” (5:28–29).

If you read the footnote again in the English Standard Version, you’ll find that Noah sounds like the Hebrew for “rest.” But can you imagine me calling my son “Relief Ferguson”? Sounds as though I was hoping he’d be a baseball pitcher who would win the World Series in a dramatic final strikeout when the bases were loaded at the bottom of the ninth inning. But no, notice the word “curse.”

These words reflect Lamech’s hope that Noah would be the one who would reverse the curse of Genesis 3:15 and bring rest. The promise was still there. Faith had not died out. Noah’s father hoped he might be the promised seed, but Noah was simply an interim climax to the conflict. God’s enemies were overwhelmed in the flood, and the true seed of the woman, Noah and his little family, and the animal kingdom they possessed were certainly being mightily bruised, but they emerged. And indeed, the land had rest.

And on the other side of the judgment flood, in Genesis 9:1–7, God gives similar commands to Noah as the ones he had first given first to Adam and Eve—a new covenant and a new kind of new creation that signified that the promise was still intact. But wonderful although this was, it was still preliminary, wasn’t it? Just another stage in the outworking of Genesis 3:15.

All this, and we’ve only reached Genesis 9. And there’s more than nine hundred chapters to go in the Bible before we read the name Jesus. But then the day came when the true Noah appeared on the stage of history—I mean the One who said: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matt. 11:29–30). What Noah only pictured, the Lord Jesus provided. At last, the promise was fulfilled. I think that’s thrilling, and I hope it thrills you too.