Greater Men and Women of the Bible by James Hastings: 020. A Child of Hope

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Greater Men and Women of the Bible by James Hastings: 020. A Child of Hope

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A Child of Hope

And Lamech lived an hundred eighty and two years, and begat a son: and he called his name Noah, saying, This same shall comfort us for our work and for the toil of our hands, because of the ground which the Lord hath cursed.- Gen_5:28-29.

1. Lamech felt the evils of his time; all seemed to him to flow, as it did flow, from the sin which had been perpetrated, and from the curse which had been pronounced, in Eden. He felt the burden of his labour upon the soil, and when his son was born, we read a proof of the father's melancholy, together with the prophetic presentiment of a brighter future, in the name of the infant: “And he called his name Noah, saying, This same shall comfort us for our work and for the toil of our hands, because of the ground which the Lord hath cursed.”

“Noah” means rest or comfort; and his parents gave him this name, expecting through him, in some way, or probably in more ways than one, the fulfilment to them of the happy meaning of the name he bore. We cannot say, in the absence of any information in the Book, how definite their expectation was regarding their son. Perhaps they themselves hardly knew exactly what they were expecting. They were sure, however, and not by parental instinct merely, but evidently as the result of some Divine intimation given them concerning this child, that he would be a comforting helper. He would help them in their labours on the stubborn soil; he would help them in their resistance to the rapidly increasing violence of society around them; it is possible that they may have had some hope that he might even prove to be the Messiah.

2. But besides this general sense of failure in the world and this hope that Noah was sent to redeem the disappointment, is it not possible that Lamech had also a personal sense of failure and that his hopes went forward to his son as sent to redeem his life from its barrenness and its worthlessness? Lamech may have been a successful man as this world counts success. But when men succeed in what the world and their ambitions urge them to attempt, there almost always comes a certain sense of tawdriness and worthlessness in the result; and this sense is often keenest in the noblest men, keen and deep just in proportion to men's native nobleness and also in proportion to the nobleness of the work in which they have succeeded. The wise man finds it when he has won his learning, the conscientious man when he has done his duty, the patient man when he has borne his pain. In weak, exhausted moments after the victory comes the question whether it is all worth while. It seems as if the mere fact of learning or doing or suffering were like an athlete's triumph, fruitless of real result, and good for nothing but a show. Many and many a busy or patient man's and woman's life is haunted by this sense of tawdriness, this lack of worth and dignity.

Where is the rescue to come from? A man must learn that behind all effort and in spite of all disappointment there is a purpose in his life. That is the first element of hope, and it has wonderful virtue when seen steadily. But he may have to learn, further, that this purpose is being fulfilled, not in his own life but in the lives that are to come after him and that link themselves to his. The son “shall comfort us,” not simply in our own lifetime, but by the vision of faith, that, when we pass, God's work goes on. If it has entered, through folly and sin, upon a wrong track, that path may have to be closed and a new way opened. But the work will go on and God's great purpose be fulfilled.

If God may present Himself to us over the ruins of our fallen work as He never could have entered in by its stately and well-built gates, and so the purpose of our life may be attained in all the failure of its form;-then, surely, there is consolation-the consolation upon which the bravest and the most successful of us have to fall back a thousand times-the promise of repair which, though it never can make the breakage of a life seem trivial, may prevent it from seeming fatal; and may make, thank God! a new courage where the old has died, a courage full of faith when the courage of self-reliance has become impossible for ever.

Courage! for life is hasting

To endless life away:

The inner life unwasting

Transfigures thy dull clay.

Lost, lost, are all our losses;

Love sets for ever free:

The full life heaves and tosses

Like an eternal sea:

One endless, living story,

One poem spread abroad!

And the sum of all our glory

Is the countenance of God!1 [Note: Phillips Brooks, The More Abundant Life, 159.]