Noach — “Noah”
Portion for the week leading up to November 5, 2016
The Days of Noah
The story of Noah and the Great Flood is a sobering tale of destruction which has caused many to cautiously ponder its relevance to the current generation. God promised that He would never wipe out the world with another flood; however, the earth is not out of the clear just yet: "But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up," (2 Peter 3:10). What does Noah have to teach us on how we are to conduct ourselves in preparation for this day?
"Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his time; Noah walked with God," (Genesis 6:9). Throughout the story of Noah, his own righteousness is contrasted against the wickedness of everyone else in the world: "for you alone I have seen to be righteous before Me in this time," (Genesis 7:1). If there was no standard of righteousness or no way in which the people could know God, then their destruction would have been unjust. But as Paul tells us, "For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse," (Romans 1:20). All of mankind had lost sight of holiness and become corrupted, blinded by violence and indulgence. But somehow in the midst of such perversity, Noah went against the current and experienced God, knowing that He would soon hold everyone accountable for their deeds.
Several times as Noah is building the ark, we are told that he "did according to all that the Lord had commanded him." This would give us the impression that Noah was accustomed to hearing from God and obeying whatever he was told. This not only includes basic moral commandments (which alone would have separated him from the rest of mankind), but also includes rules that we might be surprised to hear about. When Noah is being given instructions about which animals to take on the ark, God says to him, "You shall take with you of every clean animal by sevens, a male and his female; and of the animals that are not clean two, a male and his female," (Genesis 7:2). Since God so freely spoke of the clean and unclean animals, Noah must already be familiar with which animals are clean and which are unclean, many years before the covenant at Mt. Sinai.
Although Noah's good behavior would seem to put him in a lonely position, he does not shy away or isolate himself from the world. But rather, we see in 2 Peter that Noah was a "preacher of righteousness." This is never stated in the Genesis account of Noah's life, so from where does Peter get this information? One possibility is that he knew the teachings of the day as taught by the rabbis. There exists a compilation of rabbinic sayings called Pirke de Rabbi Eliezer, which means "Chapters of Rabbi Eliezer." It is considered to originate as early as the first century, and doubtless some of the ideas it contains had been around for some time already. Within lies page after page of rabbinic explanations of Scriptures, including a line that is relevant to our question: "Rabbi Levi said: ...Noah said to them: Turn from your ways and evil deeds, so that He bring not upon you the waters of the Flood, and destroy all the seed of the children of men." It is not difficult to imagine that as Noah was building the ark, people became curious about what he was up to, giving Noah a chance to spread the news about what God was going to bring about very soon.
Another teaching from the same place says that the construction of the ark took 52 years, and that this was supposed to give the people a chance to repent. As Peter tells us, "The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance," (2 Peter 3:9). It is for this reason that Yeshua (Jesus) is delayed in His return, so that all who will repent and turn to Him will find eternal safety.
Peter uses the story of Noah to explain God's faithfulness in guarding those who diligently seek Him: "The Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment," (2 Peter 2:9). He makes the point that if God was able and willing to protect people like Noah while destroying the evil-doers, then He is also able to protect us in the day of His wrath. Just as Noah built an ark to escape the flood, we find a source of refuge in Yeshua from the fire of judgement. This doesn't mean that we won't go through tribulation or persecution. Rather, those times of testing will reveal just how faithful we have been in preparing for His return: "Each man's work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man's work... If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire," (1 Corinthians 3:13, 15).
Knowing this, let us follow the example of Noah, leading a life of purity among a crooked generation, not shying away from preaching and engaging in repentance, but always keeping our eyes fixed on the source of our salvation and watching daily for His return.