Weekly Commentary
Weekly Commentary

— Parashat Noach

Torah: (Bereishit) Genesis 6:9 — 11:32
Haftarah: Isaiah 54:1 — 55:5


THE NOACHIAN PRECEPTS

The story of Noah and the flood is known throughout the world and appears in different cultures, but only as that, a story. Most of the time the only thing that we remember from reading this Parashah is again just that, a story: the story of Noah's ark, the flood, and the rainbow. But this sidra is much more than that and it has within it profound teachings because this is not just a story, it is part of God's dealings with humanity and, thus, part of human history.

To better understand the history of Noah we first need to read some passages from the Brit Chadashah, beginning with the apostle Saul's letter to the Romans 1:18: “For the burning anger of God is being revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who wickedly repress the truth, even though what is knowable about God lies plainly before their eyes, for God has shown them. For since the creation of the world His invisible characteristics are perceived intellectually in the things which have been created, that is, both His eternal power and divine nature are discernible, so that they have no excuse."

The people in Noah's time had no excuse for not knowing God, just as the people of today. Everything in nature declares that there is a God who created it all. If we are intellectually honest we can perceive a Creator behind the wonders of molecules, atoms and genes. The scientific "discoveries" attest to the existence of God and not of man's intelligence. Science should not be in conflict with the belief in God as evidenced by the fact that more and more modern scientists believe in the existence of God, as did the scientists of old.

Continuing reading in the letter to the Romans: “Therefore, God delivered them over in the lusts of their hearts to uncleanness, to the dishonoring and perverting of their bodies among themselves: they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever." The ten generations from Adam to Noah had ended in failure; mankind behaved as described in this passage and had stumbled into a downward spiral until God resolved that all the inhabitants of the earth would be wiped out, with the exception of Noah, his family, and enough animals to replenish the entire creation; Noah would become the father of mankind after the Flood.

Since man disobeyed God and sinned, the behavior of people gradually deteriorated. In this tenth generation we see the full effect of sin. At first they were guilty of immorality and idolatry sinning covertly before God. Later, the earth had become filled with thievery — which was obvious to all and accepted by all. As a result, the entire creation became corrupt, because man is the essence of the world and his corruption infects it all. Such is the progression of sin. It begins in private, when people still have a sense of right and wrong. But once people develop the habit of sinning, they gradually lose their shame, and immoral behavior becomes the accepted norm.

God decreed that a generation that behaved so immorally, had forfeited its right to exist, but even then, He showed His mercy and He gave the people one hundred twenty years to repent. We, in our humanity, are all too quick to judge the behavior of our fellow human being because we focus our attention on us and not on God. God used Noah because of his character, God used apostle Paul - Rav Saul - because of his character, and God could use us too, if only we are willing to focus our attention on our merciful God and let Him be the Judge, as the apostle Paul continues in Romans: “For this reason, you are without excuse, you, each one of you who passes judgment. For in that you pass judgment on the other, you condemn yourself; for you practice the very things on which you pass judgment. And we know that the judgment of God against those who practice such things is in accordance with the truth. You, o man, you who pass judgment on those who practice such things and yet do the same yourself, do you suppose then that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you think lightly of the riches of His Kindness and of his forbearance and of his patience, disregarding the fact that the kindness of God leads you to teshuvah (repentance)?”

And this is the teaching, the Torah as it were, of Noah. God established a minimum standard of conduct for all mankind, which we now call the seven Noahian Precepts. These standards of morality remain binding on all human beings, Jews or Gentile, and are six negative: 1) idolatry, 2) murder, 3) theft, 4) blasphemy, 5) adultery, 6) eating the flesh of a living animal, and one positive: 7) promotion of justice. These commandments may be regarded as the foundations of human morality. But these Noahian Precepts rest upon the recognition of a divine Creator. They recognize that moral progress and its concomitant Divine love are the privilege and obligation of all mankind, but that God is in the end the supreme judge of our actions.

The story of Noah not only teaches us about commonsense morality, but also about the need for a Savior.

First, it teaches that we have transgress even these seven commandments and our hearts do not seek the righteousness of God, thus we are tainted by sin and we cannot come in this condition in the presence of a Holy God. We need a Savior to wash us clean. “For Messiah also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits in prison, who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you — not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience — through the resurrection of Yeshua HaMashiah.” (1 Peter 3:18-21) It is not the baptism that saves, which is only an outward expression of being saved, but the appeal to God for a good conscience, by making teshuvah, asking for forgiveness which can only be received through the shed blood of Yeshua.

Second, it gives us a warning because we should understand and discern the times and the events around us: “For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be... For this reason you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think.” (Matthew 24:37-39, 44)

Look around you and discern the times. With the U.S. Supreme Court Decision in the case of Defense of Marriage Act, we have entered in the times as of Noah.

Yeshua gave us two signs of the time of His return. One has been fulfilled and the other one is being fulfilled through you and I: (1) "Yerushalayim will be trampled down by the Goyim, until the times of the Goyim are fulfilled." (Luke 21:24) as of June 1967, Jerusalem is not trampled by nations any more, the time of the Gentiles has ended, and (2) "For I tell you, you will not see Me from now on, until you say, 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!'" (Matthew 23:39) more Jewish people are coming to a saving knowledge of Messiah saying, Baruch Haba B'Shem Adonai, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.

Time is short, the Lord is at the door and we need to preach the Gospel in season and out of season, with our deeds and with our words. But first, let us examine our attitudes and resolve to only look upon the exalted one of God, Yeshua HaMashiah, to learn from Him and be transformed, because it is only through His work on the Roman execution cross that we can effectively love and be a witness to the unbelieving community, that we can encourage, extol and pray for one another, thus, be ready to be a witness for God even in the midst of this generation which once again it began to spiral downward.

 

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