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Noach: The Sign of the Covenant

Noach (Noah / Rest)
Genesis 6:9–11:32; Isaiah 66:1–24; Luke 1:5–80

“This is the account of Noah and his family.”  (Genesis 6:9)

In last week’s Torah portion (Parasha), we restarted the cycle of our weekly study of the Word of God from the very beginning with the study by the same name: Bereisheet (In the Beginning).

This week, we continue our study from the first book of Moses with the Biblical character of Noah—the only righteous man of his generation.

“Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God.”  (Genesis 6:9)

Lifting the Torah for all to see at the Western (Wailing) Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem. (Photo: Israel Ministry of Tourism)

Lifting the Torah for all to see at the Western (Wailing) Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem. (Photo: Israel Ministry of Tourism)

Noah: A Righteous Man

The Hebrew Scriptures describe Noah as tzadik (צַדִּיק righteous) and tamim (תָּמִים pure, innocent, complete and faultless).

Noah stands in contrast to the time in which he lived.  Only six chapters into the Bible and the world is already described as being filled with violence and corruption.

“The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence.  So God looked upon the earth, and indeed it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth.”  (Genesis 6:11–12)

God vowed to destroy every person—all except Noah and his family.  These six people would be miraculously saved in an ark that God instructed Noah to build.

Noah obeyed God even though he saw no evidence of the coming deluge.

For that reason, the book of Hebrews includes Noah as one of the heroes of our faith:

“By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.”  (Hebrews 11:7)

Building the Ark, by James Tissot

Building the Ark, by James Tissot

Noah’s absolute faith in God, which resulted in uncompromising obedience, was the reason he was able to truly enter a place of blessed rest.

In fact, the name Noah, or Noach in Hebrew, means rest.

He was not a man who “leaned on his own understanding” of a situation, but trusted wholeheartedly in the Word of the Lord and obeyed.

We will also come to this place of peace and rest when we learn to simply trust and obey God at His Word.  Too often we try to reason everything out and make sure something makes sense or agrees with our theology before complying with God’s commands.

“Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience.”  (Hebrews 4:11)

praise woman sunlight

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit).”  (Romans 15:13)

The Great Flood

“And I, behold, I do bring the flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life, from under heaven; everything that is in the earth shall perish.”  (Genesis 6:17)

In this Parasha, God instructs Noah to build a huge ark (called a teivah תֵּבָה in Hebrew) capable of holding a pair of every kind of animal.  A terrible deluge of water is about to come, which would wipe out every living thing on earth except for those saved on the ark.

So intense is God’s grief over the corruption of mankind, that He decided to wipe the slate clean and establish His covenant with Noah:

“But I will establish My covenant with you; and you shall come into the ark, you, and your sons, and your wife, your sons’ wives with you.  And of every living thing of all flesh, two of every sort shall you bring into the ark, to keep them alive with you; they shall be male and female.”  (Genesis 6:1719)

Noah is not a boat builder by trade and the job is no small undertaking.

He is to seal it inside and out with pitch (tar) in order that it will float on the water and keep everything dry within.

The boat requires a high standard of craftsmanship, and likely an impartation of supernatural wisdom and gifting from God to Moses.

Not only is the boat to carry an astonishing array of animals and a massive quantity of provision, it also has to withstand rain for 40 days and 40 nights.  And even after the rain stops, another 150 days will pass before the waters recede.

Noah Mosaic, in Basilica di San Marco, Venice

Noah Mosaic, in Basilica di San Marco, Venice

The ark finally comes to rest on Mount Ararat.

Noah devises a method for determining when it is safe to leave the ark by observing the behavior of birds.

He sends out a raven that comes back when it finds no place to rest.  A week passes and he sends out a dove.  It comes back as the raven did.

Later, Noah sends out a dove, and when it returns with an olive branch, he knows the waters have dried up sufficiently to allow vegetation to begin growing again.  Another week passes before Noah sends the dove again.  When she doesn’t return at all, he understands it is safe to emerge from the ark.

In a scene reminiscent of Creation, God commands Noah and his family to go out and replenish the earth—to be fruitful and multiply.  God again instructs the eating of green herbs and now allows humankind to eat the flesh of animals; nevertheless, God forbids the eating of blood.

God also institutes the death penalty for murder, reminding them that man has been created in God’s image and therefore, the life of every human being is very precious.  This passage is a reminder to us that when we look at others, we must see them as having been created in the image and likeness of the Almighty God.

“Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed; For in the image of God He made man.”  (Genesis 9:6)

Landscape with Noah's Thank Offering, by Joseph Anton Koch

Landscape with Noah’s Thank Offering, by Joseph Anton Koch

The Rainbow: the Sign of the Covenant

After Noah and his family emerged from the Ark, they sacrificed to God an offering of the clean animals carried on the Ark for that purpose.

God promised Noah that He would never again curse the earth because of the wickedness of man, and never again destroy every living, breathing creature on earth as He had done in the flood:

“And the Lord smelled a soothing aroma.  Then the Lord said in His heart, ‘I will never again curse the ground for man’s sake, although the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; nor will I again destroy every living thing as I have done.’”  (Genesis 8:21)

God set a rainbow in the sky as a sign of the covenant (ot brit / אוֹת בְּרִית) with all people of the earth: “I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth.”  (Genesis 9:13)

This is not the only covenant that God has made.  Other covenants were to follow, and each one comes with its own particular sign (ot).  The sign of the Abrahamic covenant is circumcision of all male infants on the eighth day.  The sign of the Mosaic covenant is the keeping of the seventh-day Sabbath.

Yeshua said that the great hallmark of faith in Him—of having the Torah written inside our hearts and minds in the Brit Chadashah (New Covenant)—is love:

“By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.”  (John 13:35) 

An Israeli boy runs through a meadow.

An Israeli boy runs through a meadow.

The Generational Curse of Ham

After leaving the Ark , Noah planted a vineyard.

Although he was a righteous man, he became drunk on wine and was found by his son, Ham, passed out naked in his tent.

Two of his sons, Shem and Yafet, were blessed by their father because they walked in backwards and covered his nakedness; however, Noah’s son Ham was punished for dishonoring his father.

This is a strong lesson for all of our children.  The command to honor our mother and father comes with a promise that we will live a long and blessed life.

“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the LORD your God gives you.”  (Exodus 20:12)

Teaching children to properly respect their parents protects their future.

The Coral World Observation Tower in Eilat, which is Israel's southernmost city and a popular resort area for Israeli families and tourists.

The Coral World Observation Tower in Eilat, which is Israel’s southernmost city and a popular resort area for Israeli families and tourists.

Although all of Noah’s family were saved physically, each one had to choose the way of spiritual salvation—a transformation of the heart.  Shem and Yafet showed a right heart and right spirit, while their brother Ham, showed that his heart needed to be regenerated.

This curse over Ham did not end with him, but carried on down the generations.

We may unknowingly also carry curses upon our lives from generational sins of our family before us.  The atoning blood of Yeshua paid the price for all our sins and has the power to break these curses; however, we must receive, proclaim, and walk in our freedom in the Son.

One of Ham’s sons was Cush.  His son, Nimrod, began the kingdom of Babel (modern day Iraq).  Nimrod also built the wicked city of Nineveh, to which God sent Jonah to preach repentance.

Torah scroll and yad (Torah pointer)

Torah scroll and yad (Torah pointer)

The Tower of Babel was built in the land of Shinar, which is in Babylon (Iraq).

In Hebrew, Babel means confusion.

The people of the world unified in their goal of building the tower of Babel, but their motives were founded in control and rebellion against God.

They wanted to control their destiny.

“And they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.’”  (Genesis 11:4)

As a result, to save humankind from being united to do evil, God was forced to bring confusion to their languages to destroy their works.

“Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”  (Genesis 11:7)

The Tower of Babel, by Pieter Bruegel the Elder

The Tower of Babel, by Pieter Bruegel the Elder

It is ironic that the very thing they feared, being scattered and divided across all the earth, is exactly what happened to them when they attempted to secure their own future without relying on God.

“So the LORD scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they ceased building the city.”  (Genesis 11:8)

In everything we do, we must examine our motives to see if we are attempting to “build a name for ourselves”or working to build the Kingdom of God.  All that is built with impure motives will be destroyed on the Day of Judgment.

Still, there is a principle here that we must not miss: when the people come into unity of heart, mind, and purpose—nothing is impossible for them!

“And the LORD said, ‘Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them.’”  (Genesis 11:6)

A couple shops together in the Mahane Yehuda Market in Jerusalem.

A couple shops together in the Mahane Yehuda Market in Jerusalem.

God Himself acknowledges that such unity is a powerful force.

When we submit to the tactic of divide and conquer, we succumb to weakness and defeat.  That is why the enemy of our souls works overtime to cause division in churches, families, and marriages.

It is in unity rooted in righteousness and Godliness that God commands His blessing:

“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! … For there the LORD commanded the blessing— Life forevermore.”  (Psalm 133:1, 3)

Imagine what Believers can accomplish when they are motivated by love and united in God’s purposes.

Jewish men pray together in Jerusalem

Jewish men pray together in Jerusalem

The Language of Love

What created such unity among the people of Babel?  They all spoke the same language.

The only thing necessary to destroy the entire work of building the Tower of Babel was to disrupt their communication.

But communication is not only based on the language or dialect we speak.

A best-selling book by Gary Chapman called The 5 Love Languages analyzes five different emotional communication preferences that connect people to each other: words of affirmation; acts of service; receiving gifts; quality time; and physical touch.

Understanding these preferences can help us deepen our relationships with others in our homes, work, and daily travels.

A Jewish man wearing tefillin (phylacteries) and a tallit (prayer shawl) holds  up the Torah scroll.

A Jewish man wearing tefillin (phylacteries) and a tallit (prayer shawl) holds up the Torah scroll.

Even more so, Believers are to be uniquely connected to each other through God’s love language, which is expressed through one mind, one heart, and one spirit rooted in His Word.

This is how we speak God’s love language: we must instruct, exhort, rebuke, encourage, and respond to others with the fruit of His Spirit—love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22–23).

There is a famous Jewish saying: “May you be covered in the dust of your Rabbi!”

Those who follow Yeshua, walking closely in His footsteps and sitting humbly at His feet, become covered in the dust of His sandals.

Communicating in the unity of God’s love language is one way we can identify those who are covered in the dust of Yeshua and are truly His disciples (talmidim).

"Follow in His steps." (1 Peter 2:21)

“Then Yeshua said to His disciples, ‘Whoever wants to be My talmidim must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow Me.'”  (Matthew 16:24)

The Coming Judgment

Just like the flood in the days of Noah, in the end times, judgment will come suddenly (Matthew 24:36–41).

But those who know the Lord need not fear, for He will provide a safe shelter, a teivah, from the raging storm of tribulation just as He provided the ark for Noah and his family.

The prophet Isaiah wrote,

“Come, My people, enter your chambers, and shut your doors behind you; Hide yourself, as it were, for a little moment, until the indignation is past.”  (Isaiah 26:20)

May we emerge from the Ark of God’s shelter in the unity of faith to establish the new heavens and the new earth of peace and righteousness and justice under the rule of the Messiah, Yeshua.

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