On leaving home for any reason one always desires a safe return. No matter how eager one is to go on a journey to some distant land, or to go and visit some nearby beauty spot, or even to visit a relative or friend, one always has deepest in one’s soul the desire to return safely at home.
The minute the car drives off the yard, the moment the bus leaves the curb, the train leaves the depot, the ship leaves the dock, or the plane leaves the terminal, one departs in the hope of a safe arrival and of a safe journey home.
We need not doubt, therefore, that Noah and his family, when they went into the ark, even though they had implicit trust in God, yea because they had such implicit trust in God, looked forward to a safe return to the dry land, which was their home, the minute they walked into the ark.
It was wonderful to be safe in that ark while all those around and outside of that ark were perishing because of the flood. Yet this ark is not where they belong forever. The hand of God that fed and kept them without sickness and disease for a year and ten days in the ark is the hand that created them to live on dry land.
And here again we come across such a simple statement that is so full of meaning. It is that which we read in Genesis 8:4, “And the ark rested in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, upon the mountains of Ararat.” Think it through once. The ark came down in some mountainous country. The whole region is called “the mountains of Ararat,” and the ark did not necessarily rest on that peak that today is called Mt. Ararat. It came to rest in the region that is called “the mountains of Ararat.”
But what a hazardous place for the ark to come to as the waters began to recede! Why did it not come to rest in the plain of Shinar? Should it have come to rest on the steep slope of a mountain, the whole ark could have slid to a crashing halt, killing many if not all of its occupants. Or it could have come to rest in the midst of a thick woods, and granted that the trees might have been dead — although God did preserve them as well, though they were under water for a long period of time — this could have tipped the ark over and given it anything but a safe landing. Or, drifting along, it could have come to a submerged peak that would have destroyed it, as so many ships have been destroyed by hidden icebergs.
But no, this cannot be. The God Who sent the flood to save Noah and his family by the waters of that flood gently set it down in a clearing that was level, even though it was high in the mountains. It “rested” on the mountains of Ararat. Is there not something reassuring in that little word? It did not come to a jarring stop. It did not bang down on the hard rock. It rested.
Its work was finished. That ark had safely brought Noah and his family from the old world to this new world. And we foolishly try to find that ark today. Let us beware lest we try to worship the creature. And you may be sure that had the ark been found, pieces of it would be worshipped and cherished today as though they were holy and had some magical power in them. God in His wisdom kept that ark from the hands of men who would worship it instead of the God Who caused it to protect His Church and to usher them into the new world. It is Christ, of Whom that ark was a picture and shadow, that we must worship.
He finished His work of justifying us before the judgment seat of God, and then He rested. He is still working our sanctification and glorification. But He cried in triumph on the cross of having finished the work that blots out our guilt. And it is exactly on the basis of this that now He is performing that work of making us holy and of preparing glory for us and of preparing us for that glory. Worship Him as He now rests at God’s right hand, enjoying not only the finished work of having paid for our sins by His blood, but also of His own glorification as our Head. And let the remains of that ark — if indeed they are in a condition after all these years that would clearly indicate them to be the remains of the ark — rest quietly where they are. Let us look to the Christ and away from the types and shadows, which have served their purpose, lest we fall into idolatry ourselves.
For Noah, however, it was not such a simple thing that, when the ark rested, he and the animals came out and entered into their new home. There still was a patient waiting period required. They undoubtedly were aware at once that the ark settled on that mountain and was no longer adrift. They were conscious of stability again and that the ark no longer moved. In this they were also conscious of the hand of God’s providence and grace.
For not only did they, the day they entered the ark, look forward to a safe journey in it and safe arrival in the new world, they also looked forward to such an arrival in a new world. They knew that they would not spend the rest of their lives in the ark. Hebrews 11:7 says that Noah being warned of God by faith prepared an ark to the saving of his house. By faith, then, he saw safety in the ark, in a time when by faith he saw a flood which was not as yet. But by faith he also looked forward to living on the dry land once more. About this he had no doubt. That whole ark full of land animals made no sense, if they were not to return to their habitat. The wood that surrounded those who were inside that ark, had grown on the dry land and had protected them from water which would have taken away their life, were it not for that ark that was constructed on the dry land and out of the timber grown on the dry land.
Noah therefore was aware of God’s intent to bring him back home to his natural habitat, and he likewise knew, when the ark rested on the mountains of Ararat, that he must patiently wait until God had assuaged the waters to the point where there was room and a place for him and the animals to live. And to ascertain the moment he first sent out a raven and a dove. He had opened a window which God had instructed him to put there while he was building the ark. The proportions of that ark are a bit of the wisdom of God, and not of Noah. And the design of the door which God closed upon Noah, and of this window which Noah used to let forth the raven and the dove were divinely determined and given to Noah.
Diverse these birds certainly were. Much is made today of the hawks and the doves, the former being figurative language of those who are war-minded, and the latter as a figure of those who are all out for peace, often at any cost. But here the idea is specifically between the flesh-eating birds and the plant-eating birds. There is, of course, a difference in size and strength as well. But the two, wisely chosen again by God and not by Noah, except as God put the idea in Noah’s mind, serve to relate to Noah the rapidity or slowness of the abating of the waters.
The raven never returned. Being the carnivorous bird that it was it found food in the form of the carcasses that still floated upon the waters. And not being particular where it rested its feet, it found no need of going back to the ark. The dove found not only no food but also no place for her foot. She is quite particular where she sets her foot down and welcomed the comfort and food of the ark. And God, Who had created this bird with its nature, used it now to keep Noah informed as to the condition of the earth upon which he belonged. God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform. Weakest means fulfill His will, mighty enemies to still. And when God moved the dove, after being let go one week later, to pluck off an olive leaf and to bring it to Noah, He gave Noah the sign for which he had been looking. And he waited patiently seven more days and then removed the covering of the ark and looked and saw the dry ground.
What mixed emotions he might have had are not recorded. Certainly there must have been a sense of joy at seeing the dry land again after all those weeks of confinement. But there certainly was also a sense of sadness and even of loneliness. How different the world looked! For, even though he embarked on his journey from a sin-cursed harbor, his ship had now come to the end of its journey in a land that clearly showed the effects of God’s mighty wrath and its destructive powers. It may have been a breathtaking view which Noah saw from out of the ark and before he abandoned ship, but it certainly was a different world. The land may have been richer because of the upheaval of tons of rich sea-bottom soil through the flood, when the fountains of the deep were opened up, but this was only a reminder of the wrath of God that had sent that flood.
And here they were, eight souls in a big world! They had had to live with each other in close confinement for a year and ten days. And that may have had its problems, for they all had their flesh. However, the arrival at their destination, their coming to their new home did not take away an awful awareness that they were the only human beings in a new world which they had to explore without the help of natives who knew the land.
Contrast all this with that of which it all is a type, and see how much more wonderful the reality is than the shadow. In Christ we are all safe — and will be safe when the judgment of fire comes upon this earth — and will surely arrive in not a new world but a new creation. Though the body may be in the grave much longer than a year and ten days, and even longer than a millennium and ten decades, it will ultimately enter the new creation, as well as the soul, which enters into the presence of God the moment of death. There may be a violent death. There may be visible the death struggle that so often occurs as the body reluctantly gives up the soul. But that soul gently comes to rest in the glory of heaven. There will be no jarring entrance and landing. As the ark rested quietly upon the mountains of Ararat, the soul of the child of God swiftly but gently floats to an immediate and delightfully comfortable place in the glory of heaven. And we can only wonder at the tremendous surprise and contrasting jubilation that shall in the twinkling of an eye be experienced by the child of God who comes there, after a painful or violent death.
We will arrive in no world that manifests God’s wrath and the curse, but into a realm that speaks of His love and radiates blessedness. Just read Revelation 21 and 22. For that land we are headed. There we will arrive as surely and as gently as Noah and his family arrived in the new world.
And you will not feel lonesome. Nor can you possibly be lonesome there. You will be received by God’s holy angels and be with Christ and with the host of the other saints. Human words can never express all the wonder of such an arrival and of such a life. By faith we can see it darkly in the Scriptures as through a glass. But the face-to-face enjoyment is surely coming. And for every child of God there is a safe journey to that home. As the waters of the flood saved Noah and his family from the world of enemies, the fire of the day of Christ will separate us forever from the enemies of the church and bring us also to that phase of our salvation.
Let us change the prayer in the hymn to a confession of faith:
Jesus Saviour pilots me
Over life’s tempestuous sea;
Unknown waves before me roll,
Hiding rock and treach’rous shoal:
Safer, though, I could not be —
Jesus Saviour Pilots me