Sweet messenger of rest
‘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.’ Genesis 8:11
SUGGESTED FURTHER READING: Isaiah 51:12–16; Matthew 11:28–30
Noah sent forth first the raven, which returned no more, then a dove, which, not finding rest, returned to the ark—but the second time brought an olive leaf. It was probably from an imperfect tradition of this circumstance that an olive branch has been considered an emblem of peace among all nations. The raven is an unclean bird. A bird of prey, it was confined in the ark and glad of its liberty, for it could find subsistence abroad. But the dove could not live upon ravens’ food and therefore returned till the earth was fully dried. Thus the carnal heart can find satisfaction in the world, but the believer can find no rest but in the ark. As Noah put forth his hand to receive her, so Jesus graciously receives the weary soul into his rest.
The dove, though it came back unsuccessful, is sent forth again and at last brings the token. The peace of God is revealed to persevering prayer, and when the heart has been humbled by the Word and brought into a meek and gentle spirit. The peace of God is made known not to ravens but to doves. At last the dove likewise took its flight and returned no more. The earth was dried and the fruits ready for its food. Believers go forth upon the wing of faith and prayer; they receive tokens of good and are witnesses and messengers of the Lord’s mercy. But in time their hope is exchanged for possession and they take their flight from the church below to the land of eternal rest, from whence they shall come back no more.
Does the gospel-word proclaim
Safely lodged within thy breast,
Rest, for those who weary be?
What a wondrous change I find!
Then, my soul, put in thy claim,
Now I know thy promised rest
Sure that promise speaks to thee:
Can compose a troubled mind
Marks of grace I cannot show,
You that weary are like me,
All polluted is my best;
Hearken to the gospel call;
Yet I weary am I know,
To the ark for refuge flee,
And the weary long for rest.
JESUS will receive you all!
SERMON SERIES: GENESIS, NO. 18 [3/3], GENESIS 8:11