Weekly Torah Commentary – Noach November 4, 2016

Torah reading:  Noach  Genesis 6:9-11:32

Haftorah:  Isaiah 54:1 – 55:5


As chapter 54 of Isaiah opens, the prophet announces future blessings: the expansion of Israel, the blessings of safety and peace, and the portion of righteousness.

This chapter anticipates the ultimate salvation and restoration of Israel, begun in part at the restoration of the exiles from Babylon in 536 B.C. but for the most part yet in the future, for as this chapter unfolds it will become clearer and clearer that the return from Babylon did not fulfill all the promises of God. There yet remains the final culmination of the entirety of God’s covenant promises at the end of the age. In fact, as these chapters progress to the end of the book, the vision gets more glorious, and the hope for what we will see in the end of days that much more strengthened.

We have here Isaiah’s glimpse at the promises of the new covenant God promised to make with the House of Israel and the House of Judah. He does not provide the details of Jeremiah 31 or Ezekiel 36, but he complements what is there.

The verses describing the new covenant promised: a restoration to the land for Israel and to the pure worship and spiritual service as priests, the long awaited arrival of King Messiah to Israel,  the pouring out of the Spirit on all flesh so that the Torah will be written in their hearts, the end of war and oppression in the land and in the world, and the reign of the Messiah in righteousness. Beginning with the restoration from exile, some of this was fulfilled, but not all; only with the coming of Messiah will all these things be completely fulfilled. Isaiah 54 lays out some of the promised blessings, but does not say when they will be fulfilled in part or completely.

But this chapter is also immediately practical as much for us today as it was for ancient Israel. The prophet describes clearly the plans God has for His holy people in this world; but the clues in the chapter, and the related contexts of the time, let us know that attaining these promises to the full called for spiritual service—which is why the chapter ends with the reminder that this is the heritage of the righteous servants of the LORD.

In verses 5 and 6 we are reminded that the promise is based on the relationship that the nation has to God; in His faithfulness to His covenant.

For your Maker is your husband,

the LORD of armies is His name;

and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer,

the God of the whole earth shall He be called.

In creation He is our ‘Maker’ but now the prophet reminds us that not only did He create us, but, as clearly proclaimed in the book of Exodus, God is also our ‘husband’, a covenant term which calls to mind a marriage. The ‘husband’ is described as the sovereign Creator, the LORD of armies, the Holy One of Israel, the Redeemer, and the God of the whole earth. Any people related by covenant (marriage) to such a One need not fear anyone—except God Himself.

The condition of Israel is addressed as a wife that is bereaved, grieved in spirit, forsaken, and cast off. But will she be cast off forever?

The following verses affirm that the exile was a temporary manifestation of God’s wrath to purge the rebels and faithless from the nation.

Verses 7-10 record the speech of the LORD to assure Israel of future peace. The poetry is exquisite:

For a small moment I have forsaken you,

but with great mercies will I gather you;

In overflowing wrath I hid my face from you for a moment,

but with everlasting love I will have mercy on you.

The whole Babylonian captivity is referred to as a “small moment” when God turned His back on Israel. Seventy years may not seem like a ‘moment’ to us but in the context of God’s eternal plan of redemption, it is indeed but a moment.

The regathering of the Tribes will be with tender mercies. The exile is described as God’s wrath when He hid His face, a very human description to convey withholding mercy, but the restoration is a display of His everlasting loyal love and His absolute dependability. God is speaking to the nation as a whole; His anger was against sin, the exile was for the purpose of purging the rebels and drawing contrition and faith from the remnant. Now the restoration would show that the judgment time had passed, that there would be a new beginning.

The announcement is similar to the Noachide Covenant. So the comparison is made with the “waters of Noah”. Here too the LORD seals His promise with an oath, just as He did in the days of Noah.  And therein is the connection with this week’s Torah portion about Noah and the great flood.

It is noteworthy that the end of days is described elsewhere as being ‘like the days of Noah’ and as we look around our world today, it’s not difficult to see the connection.  While Noah built the Ark, the people around him scoffed, mocked and ridiculed him for obeying God, oblivious to the judgment that was about to be poured out on them for their national sins and rebellion.  In the end, eight people – only EIGHT – survived the Flood, a tiny remnant.

In Tune with Torah this week: we would do well to read Genesis 6 along with all of the Haftorah and consider the message as it relates to our world at this very moment in time.

What does it say personally to you, to your family?  If you had been alive at the time of Noah, would you have joined the mockers in belittling Noah for acting in faith?