Ancient Jewish thought (i.e. Mishnah Pirkei Avot) the Torah was compared to the light, righteousness, justice, and truth. The Torah contains a mysterious transcendence that reaches beyond finite human comprehension that goes to the very essence of the divine nature of God and His will for mankind. Isaiah 55:8-9 states 55:8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. 55:9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. (NIV) Both Paul and Yeshua held this view of the Torah, in a positive manner, the Lord God does not think in the way that we do, nor does He move in the way or for the reasons that we do. Yeshua also said similar things, drawing upon the Torah in the sense that the good works of his followers were compared to light “let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16) Yeshua never taught that grace had replaced the need for maasim tovim (good works, see Ephesians 2:10). He compared the disciple who put his teaching into practice as being a source of light, where that light was the Torah put into action. It is because of these things we read what we do according to Parashat Noach, where God describes Noach as a righteous man in the midst of a generation of wickedness. The differences between a generation the wicked, compared to the righteousness of God is what we are reading about as God tells Noach that he is a righteous man in the midst of his generation. Yeshua used this generation of Noach to describe his return according to Matthew 24 and Luke 17.
24:37 ‘For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. 24:38 ‘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, 24:39 and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be. (NASB)
17:28 ‘It was the same as happened in the days of Lot: they were eating, they were drinking, they were buying, they were selling, they were planting, they were building; 17:29 but on the day that Lot went out from Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. 17:30 ‘It will be just the same on the day that the Son of Man is revealed. (NASB)
The statement “the days of Noah” and “the same as happened in the days of Lot” reveal to us the immediacy of taking what we have heard and practically apply God’s word to our lives, and live by faith. The description here Yeshua speaks of His return, it will be in a time when it was not known and everyone was going about doing what they always do. It is interesting the context of Noah to that wicked generation, and to Lot of Sodom and also that wicked group of people.
Bereshit / Genesis 6:5,11,12 ‘And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth.’
Jude 1:7 ‘Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.’
The description of the time and place from the biblical text is important, as we see in Noah’s day the world was full of wickedness with the thoughts of men being continually evil. We read how the earth was filled with violence and corruption and love had grown cold. Jude wrote that Lot dealt with a community that was filled with sexual immorality and homosexuality had overtaken the people of Sodom. Yeshua tells us that these two events describe the days in which one will live, where there will be impending doom to those who live like this, and he will return with the power of God and his mighty angels (2 Thessalonians 1). The way Yeshua describes these events, these descriptions illustrate exactly what is taking place in the world we live in today. This world is filled with violence, sexual immorality, and homosexuality, and more. These evils have been such a part of our culture that it has become entertainment on television. Turn on the television and you can see it everywhere. This world is entertained by the very things (murder, immorality, sexual perversions, etc), the very things that God had destroyed the world of old (Sodom and in the time of Noah). A good example of this is in regards to the “going after strange flesh” like they did in Sodom. Since 2001, 14 countries have fully legalized homosexual marriage: Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Iceland, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, South Africa, Sweden, New Zealand, Uraguay, France, with parts of North and South America doing the same. And the list is growing all the time. The adoption of these things by our culture is even more serious when the theologies being taught in churches today across the USA and the world are also making provision for gay marriage to be sanctioned (approved of) before God. Ministers across almost all denominations today are willing to accept and marry gay couples. Again, this is why we have to be on guard, careful, watchful, and aware of the theologies we adopt as truth. Systematic theology does not prevent this sort of error. The Rabbinic approach of organizing truth by drawing upon the Torah was a safer approach as compared to what we are seeing going on today. Peter wrote about some of these things according to 2 Peter 2:4-21.
2 Peter 2:4-21
2:4 For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment; 2:5 and did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a preacher of righteousness, with seven others, when He brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; 2:6 and if He condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to destruction by reducing them to ashes, having made them an example to those who would live ungodly lives thereafter; 2:7 and if He rescued righteous Lot, oppressed by the sensual conduct of unprincipled men 2:8 (for by what he saw and heard that righteous man, while living among them, felt his righteous soul tormented day after day by their lawless deeds), 2:9 then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment, 2:10 and especially those who indulge the flesh in its corrupt desires and despise authority. Daring, self-willed, they do not tremble when they revile angelic majesties, 2:11 whereas angels who are greater in might and power do not bring a reviling judgment against them before the Lord. 2:12 But these, like unreasoning animals, born as creatures of instinct to be captured and killed, reviling where they have no knowledge, will in the destruction of those creatures also be destroyed, 2:13 suffering wrong as the wages of doing wrong. They count it a pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are stains and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, as they carouse with you, 2:14 having eyes full of adultery that never cease from sin, enticing unstable souls, having a heart trained in greed, accursed children;
2:15 forsaking the right way, they have gone astray, having followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; 2:16 but he received a rebuke for his own transgression, for a mute donkey, speaking with a voice of a man, restrained the madness of the prophet. 2:17 These are springs without water and mists driven by a storm, for whom the black darkness has been reserved. 2:18 For speaking out arrogant words of vanity they entice by fleshly desires, by sensuality, those who barely escape from the ones who live in error, 2:19 promising them freedom while they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved. 2:20 For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. 2:21 For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment handed on to them. (NASB)
Notice the descriptions here, their eyes were full of lust, this is the example given for an age of pornography, immorality, and homosexuality. God made an example of wicked people in Noah’s day who were filled with evil and showed violence to one another by destroying them with the flood. He made a similar example in Lot’s day by raining down sulfur upon the sexually immoral people destroying them with fire. Peter says this is a warning to us that we should not follow in their footsteps by practicing the same sins. Otherwise, we will be destroyed too when Yeshua returns. This is the context Yeshua is making in his statements in both Matthew 24 and Luke 17.
These are the things that we may draw out from this week’s Torah portion (Parashat Noach) and all of these things are revealing to us is the teaching of the Torah must be studied and interpreted in a way that captures the force of God’s will for our lives in daily living. This is why the Torah has a transcendency that goes beyond systematic theology or rigid dogma. The power of God flows from the Spirit of God which enables a person to live for God in the same way that Moshe as a prophet experienced the Holy Spirit in his life empowering him for effective service. Yeshua emphasized good works in his teaching, and Paul held the Torah (God’s Word) in high esteem. The piety of Yeshua’s disciples was not done in order to earn grace. The commandments in the Torah were not a means for one to earn grace. The Levitical priesthood and the sacrificial system were also not a means for one to earn the grace (mercy) of God. Salvation is not by works. Notice how all of these things, the commands, the priesthood, the sacrificial system were meant for a covenant people. These things were given to a people who believed by faith in the living God and wanted a relationship with Him asking Him to dwell in their midst (asking Him to come into their lives). The Torah command is a way of life for those who are already God’s people by faith. When the message of Yeshua is put into action, the works of his disciples goes forth as a shining light.
Is it possible for one to have faith in the goodness of God without corresponding actions?
The Torah is light, and all who follow Yeshua must not only hear the word but also live a life of obedience. These are the wise men who build upon a firm foundation. Theologies such as Hyper-grace movement undermine the teachings of Yeshua and the gospel message of repentance and the life of salvation. Turning towards God’s ways (i.e. Teshuva / Repentance), this is the life of those who are faithful to God and His Messiah, and who have God Himself dwelling in their midst! The followers of Yeshua and Paul place the light upon a lamp when they put the teachings of the Torah into practice. When hearing the words of the Torah (the Word of God), they do them! The question then remains for each one of us, “Am I a child of God?” and “Do I put God’s Word into action in my life?” This is a Salvation issue. Do you have the Salvation of God, and is His Salvation manifest in your life? “Do you have a desire to obey God’s Instructions?” If we are seeing these things in our lives, having a desire to obey God’s Word, we can be assured the Lord has given us His Spirit, and it is by His Spirit we are being changed from the inside out, to live our lives for Him! We are His people both Jew and Gentile. Obeying Torah means that a person is bearing the testimonies of God, he has the unique characteristic holiness, righteousness, justice, and truth which only God can give.