The Torah portion that comes after the Genesis story of the creation is “Noach” (“Noah”). The reading is Genesis 6:9-11:32. From the prophets the reading is from Isaiah 54:1-10. From the New Testament we read from Luke 17:20-27.
Like the portion of Genesis that starts from chapter 1:1 and ends with chapter 6:9, and has all the most important and dramatic events in the history of this Earth, the portion of Noach that starts from Genesis 6:10 has another set of events that are not only dramatic, but also set the stage for all of human history until this very day.
The events that we read in the Torah, and also in the ancient pagan myths, have and still do cast a dark shadow on human history and will continue to do so until we experience the New Heaven and the New Earth, as both Isaiah and the apostle John in Revelation have announced with such great drama.
Please let me start with the end and return to the beginning. The Noach Torah portion starts with some of the most important words in the Torah:
“This is the genealogy of Noah. Noah was a just man, perfect in his generations. Noah walked with God.” — Genesis 6:9 [NKJV]
The fact that Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord, and that he is described as “a just man, perfect in his generations” is a message of the greatest importance for humanity before the flood and after the flood, and before Einstein and after Hiroshima.
Why? The reason is simple and important: goodness, generosity, faithfulness, righteousness, social concern, and holiness are all things that are relative and not absolute in any age and in all societies throughout history.
Yeshua our Lord states that relativity in a simple statement:
“But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.” — Luke 12:48 [NKJV]
God measures each one of us not by absolute standards, but by relative relational standards. I realize that I have written this before and have given examples from the book of Leviticus and the sacrificial laws that take into consideration the financial standard of the sinner and adjust his sacrificial obligation accordingly.
The rich sinner (who sinned the same sin) has to bring a bull or a calf to the altar for this sin offering. The not-so-rich can bring a sheep or a goat, and the poorer person can bring two pigeons, and the still-poorer person can bring a handful of grain anointed with oil. And for every one of these cases the same sin is forgiven and atoned for equally and completely.
I am bringing this principle up because our society and our congregations and communities would be so much more just and so much more effective if we could be more gracious and more understanding. Who is standing in front of us? Where is the brother or sister coming from? What were the circumstances that brought this brother or this sister to make the mistakes and sin?
Our thinking has to be always seeking to help and to encourage our brother or sister to do better and to mobilize the weaker brother to become stronger and productive. Noah was not a man that was perfect. Noah was perfect in relationship to such a horrible generation that committed such horrible sins and abominations that would make the pen and paper used to write these sins ashamed.
Yet, God looked at Noah and said: “He finds grace in my sight!” We in the 21st century would be much wiser and much more Godlike if we could look at each other with these eyes of the Lord, and seek to justify our weaker brothers and sisters before we condemn them.
Another very important point to learn from Noah is a very much modern Israeli characteristic. When an average Israeli young person is faced with a very difficult task, the first thing that he would say is, “I can do it!” Even if he doesn’t have a clue of how and what and where and when this challenge can be met and overcome.
At times this characteristic is frustrating because the average young Israeli thinks that he is Superman, he knows everything, and can do anything and can climb every mountain and jump over every hurdle.
This was Noah’s attitude when God commanded him to build a very big ship made from special wood, and collect the animals, and provide food and sustenance. This was something that was never done before, and in fact is not repeated in history.
“And God said to Noah, ‘The end of all flesh has come before Me, for the earth is filled with violence through them; and behold, I will destroy them with the earth. Make yourself an ark of gopherwood; make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and outside with pitch. And this is how you shall make it: The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, its width fifty cubits, and its height thirty cubits. You shall make a window for the ark, and you shall finish it to a cubit from above; and set the door of the ark in its side. You shall make it with lower, second, and third decks…’” — Genesis 6:13-16 [NKJV]
The next thing that we see is the following response of Noah:
“Thus Noah did; according to all that God commanded him, so he did.” — Genesis 6:22 [NKJV]
Noah is so much like many Israelis today! This characteristic is the reason why Israel is considered to be the “startup nation”. Israel is a very small country with a very troubled population, made up of immigrants and children of survivors of the Nazi Holocaust.
God’s way of measuring us is not by absolute standards, but by the standard of a great artist that looks at his paintings or sculptures and he sees that something is not perfect in the eyes of the artist. His work is not just as perfect as he would have liked it to be.
A customer comes to buy the work of art, and sees what seems to be an imperfection in the work. The customer points out the imperfections and the artist says: “Dear customer, this what looks like an imperfection is actually what makes this work of art so special and so expensive.” Anyone can take a photograph of the object, but this art is special because it reveals how great the artist is that he didn’t hide the imperfections that we all have, but made them prominent.
In my opinion, this is how God looks at us. As the artist that allowed each one of us to be so unique and special that each one of us is a work of art, “one of a kind”, specially designed and specially produced by God’s hand, even at times with some imperfections.
I personally know families of disciples of Yeshua, born-again saints in God’s kingdom, that have children with serious health challenges and permanent disabilities. At first it seems like the light of their lives was turned off. Later, they say that having a child with permanent disabilities has changed their lives for the better and has given them a special dimension of a kind of love that can’t be understood when having normal and healthy children.
In the whole Bible there is not one character, from the greatest to the least, that is sinless or perfect in his behavior. Some of the greatest heroes of our Bible are people with serious imperfections and sins. Some, like King David, sinned big-time and broke nine of the Ten Commandments, and God loved him and honored him to be the forefather of the Messiah.
We consider Noah a saint, a hero, and the father of the surviving humanity. Noah stayed a hero in the Bible even after he sinned after the flood. Moses didn’t stop being a hero and being used by God after he sinned and didn’t circumcise his sons.
Let us learn from the Lord God of Israel to be less judgmental of our brothers and sisters when there are problems with them, and sin. We must take into account who is the person and what are the circumstances of their sins and problems and seek ways to help them to see themselves in a realistic light and conduct themselves honorably and always seek to do better and improve with the encouragement of our brothers and sisters in the community.
The Haftarah (the reading from the prophets) this shabbat is from Isaiah 54:1-10. In the days of Isaiah (8th century BC) Israel is facing seriously big problems, both from outside and inside, both politically and economically, and the priesthood was corrupt.
From the first chapters, Isaiah has some very harsh and difficult prophecies against Israel, but here Isaiah is giving Israel a big boost of hope and energy, strength to overcome the present reality:
“‘Sing, O barren, You who have not borne! Break forth into singing, and cry aloud, You who have not labored with child! For more are the children of the desolate Than the children of the married woman,’ says the Lord. ‘Enlarge the place of your tent, And let them stretch out the curtains of your dwellings; Do not spare; Lengthen your cords, And strengthen your stakes. For you shall expand to the right and to the left, And your descendants will inherit the nations, And make the desolate cities inhabited. Do not fear, for you will not be ashamed; Neither be disgraced, for you will not be put to shame; For you will forget the shame of your youth, And will not remember the reproach of your widowhood anymore. For your Maker is your husband, The Lord of hosts is His name; And your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel; He is called the God of the whole earth. For the Lord has called you Like a woman forsaken and grieved in spirit, Like a youthful wife when you were refused,’ Says your God.” — Isaiah 54:1-6 [NKJV]
Considering the historical context of Isaiah and the big-time condemnation of the leaders and the priests and the people of Israel, now Isaiah is giving his “spoon full of sugar to make the medicine go down”.
We just celebrated the feast of Sukkot in Israel last week. The streets of Jerusalem were full of Christians with flags and posters of support for Israel and of standing with the Jewish people. Christians came from as far as Indonesia and Malaysia, from African countries like Zimbabwe, and from as far as Alaska, Finland, Chile, and Brazil…
The celebration was twofold: the returning of Jews from the dispersion and exile of 2000 years, and the wonderful future and hope of Israel becoming a fulfillment of all these promises that Isaiah and the other classical prophets prophesied near 2800 years ago.
Today you come and visit Israel and Jerusalem and you can see that the barren one is singing and celebrating as one of the more successful and more contributing nations in the world. In spite of the huge difficulties that we have daily in our existence, surrounded by seven nations who hate us and daily seek our demise, we are here and kicking and growing and prospering and defending ourselves against all odds.
The word of God and His promises are living and in effect daily, and there is every day a silver lining in the dark clouds of the Middle East. As the book of Esther says:
“The Jews had light and gladness, joy and honor.” — Esther 8:16 [NKJV]
Dear Christian brothers and sisters, stand with Israel, stand with Jerusalem, pray for the salvation of the Jewish nation. Israel is the only nation in the word of God that has numerous promises of God that this nation will be saved.
Join and stand with us and support Israel and support your brothers and sisters in this land. Allow and enable them to do good and bless the poor of Jerusalem and Israel, and bring joy and light and blessings to greater Israel.
This article originally appeared on Netivyah and is reposted with permission.