Torah: Beresheet (Genesis) 6:9–11:32
Haftarah: Isaiah 54:1-55:5
In my blog last week, From the Creation of Time, I wrote that I was amazed at how our entire reality is encapsulated in the first six chapters of Beresheet (Genesis). The last point I highlighted in that blog was about the reality of God’s amazing grace, which we find from the beginning of time! His amazing, endless grace is where I find my hope and it is where I believe every person ought to also find his or her hope.
The last few verses of last week’s Scripture portion revealed that the state of humankind was so evil and debased that God actually regretted creating them:
Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil throughout the day. The LORD regretted (was sorry) that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. The LORD said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky; for I am sorry that I have made them.”
In this week’s Scripture portion, we find the very famous story of Noah, the flood and the ark. We also read about the reality of evil that had taken over the world, so much so that God, in His regret, planned to destroy the earth, and all that lived on it:
Then God said to Noah, “The end of all flesh has come before Me; for the earth is filled with evil doing (violence)because of them; and behold, I am about to destroy them with the earth.”
As I read these words of the past and look around me today, I see that sadly, not much has changed: the evil all around us is only growing, as is ungodliness, selfishness, love of self and hatred of the other, racism, etc. It is shocking to see how throughout the millennia, history repeats itself over and over again.
So, where do we find hope? I personally believe that the story of Noah is full of hope and grace! Despite the reality of those days, God kept for Himself a small remnant of those who were faithful to Him. I find great comfort as I read the words of Genesis 9:11–16:
“I establish My covenant with you; and all flesh shall never again be cut off by the water of the flood, neither shall there again be a flood to destroy the earth.” God said, “This is the sign of the covenant which I am making between Me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all successive generations; I set My bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a sign of a covenant between Me and the earth. It shall come about, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow will be seen in the cloud, and I will remember My covenant, which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and never again shall the water become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the cloud, then I will look upon it, to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.”
I love seeing rainbows in the sky; they always remind me of God’s endless grace. Another thing that reminds me of God’s everlasting faithfulness and grace is the fact that I, a Jewish man, am here today in the Land which was promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. As I look around me here in Israel, I clearly understand that we are here only because of God’s faithfulness and endless grace. Israel today is not only surrounded by enemies, but also has numerous problems within; Israelis are increasingly divided between religious and secular, liberal and conservative, religious affiliation, and between the various ethnic backgrounds, etc. There is ungodliness wherever one looks, yet there is a rainbow — hope — in the sky.
This brings me to this week’s Haftarah portion from the Prophet Isaiah, which contain some of the most beautiful and meaningful words that the Lord ever spoke to Israel:
“Shout for joy, O barren one, you who have borne no child; break forth into joyful shouting and cry aloud, you who have not travailed; for the sons of the desolate one will be more numerous than the sons of the married woman,” says the LORD. “Enlarge the place of your tent; stretch out the curtains of your dwellings, spare not; lengthen your cords and strengthen your pegs. For you will spread abroad to the right and to the left. And your descendants will possess nations and will resettle the desolate cities. Fear not, for you will not be put to shame; and do not feel humiliated, for you will not be disgraced; but you will forget the shame of your youth, and the reproach of your widowhood you will remember no more. For your husband is your Maker, whose name is the LORD of hosts; and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel, Who is called the God of all the earth.For the LORD has called you, like a wife forsaken and grieved in spirit, even like a wife of one’s youth when she is rejected,” Says your God. “For a brief moment I forsook you, but with great compassion I will gather you. In an outburst of anger I hid My face from you for a moment, but with everlasting grace I will have compassion on you,”says the LORD your Redeemer. “For this is like the days of Noah to Me, when I swore that the waters of Noah would not flood the earth again; so I have sworn that I will not be angry with you nor will I rebuke you. For the mountains may be removed and the hills may shake, but My grace will not be removed from you, and My covenant of peace will not be shaken,” says the LORD who has compassion on you.
The comparison in these verses of Israel to a barren woman is very significant because, in biblical times, a childless woman was considered to be cursed by God. More than this, not being able to bear children represents a hopeless future, because children are typically a picture of hope for the future. Yet, in these wonderful verses from Isaiah, we find an incredible promise that a barren woman will bring forth children in the future; this echoes promises that God made directly to other women in the Bible, such as Sarah, Rebecca, and Hannah.
Many commentaries on these specific verses interpret them as Israel returning to the Land of Promise from exile. That is certainly part of Israel's redemption, but it is not the whole story. I believe that there is a greater significance here in that Israel, which is described here as God’s Bride, will bear children, bringing many children to His Kingdom. Yes, for a brief moment he may have forsaken us, but by His great compassion and mercy, He will gather us. Yes, in an outburst of anger He hid His face from us, but in His everlasting grace, He will have compassion on us and will reveal Himself once again to us. He has done this to Israel on an individual level, but the completion of this will be to all of Israel.
This week as I took a walk with my son, we spoke about the difference between having things in theory — talking about things, having good intentions, etc. — versus being practical about that which we believe in and are convicted about. This reminds me of Noah and his decision to act on God's commands. Noah was faithful to God in the midst of all of the evil, and Noah’s life was set on the task that God called him to — building the Ark. I believe that just like Noah, we His followers are also called to a task in the midst of the evil that we see around us, which is to build a different kind of “ark”, i.e. God’s Kingdom, not just in theory, but also in action!
There is a rainbow in the sky — there is hope for Israel — the same promise that was given to Noah, was also given to us! What are we doing about it?
Did you know? — Lone Soldier
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