This week’s Torah portion is entitled Noach, covering Genesis 6:9 through 11:32. It tells us about the catastrophic world-wide Flood which destroyed all life on Earth except for Noah, his family, and ancestral pairs of all animals. But the Flood isn’t the main theme. The theme is what it means to be the remnant. Noah, a righteous man, living in the midst of a godless society, had a unique relationship with the Creator, and was willing to look foolish for the sake of obedience. His trust in God, and obedience, shielded Noah and his family from judgment. Three key words appear at the beginning of this parasha:

נֹחַ אִישׁ צַדִּיק

Noah was a righteous man.

Moses tells us that Noah was blameless, and walked with God. The word used to describe him, tameem means complete, or having integrity. Contrast that with God’s verdict about the rest of mankind: God looked on the earth, and behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth. The murder of Abel by Cain seems to have been just the beginning. Sin spread rapidly through mankind like an aggressive virus, and the whole world was filled with bloodshed.

What follows is a story known the world over. God instructs Noah to build an ark of gopher wood, 450′ x 75′ x 45′, three decks high, lined with pitch, in which he and his family and representative pairs of animals will be sheltered from the coming Deluge. From these ancestral pairs the earth will be repopulated.

There are numerous ancient stories of a great world-wide Flood that have come down to us from people groups on every continent on earth. The Chaldeans told of Xisuthrus, the Sumerians of Ziusudra, the Assyrians of Utnapishtim, the Babylonians of Atrahasis, the Masai in East Africa of Tumbainot, and there are others. Most of these Flood stories have common elements: humanity’s pervasive wickedness, one faithful man, instructions to build an ark or ship, the amassing of animals to accompany him on the ship, and a flood which wipes out the rest of mankind. Some argue that all these common flood stories prove that the early chapters of Genesis are mythology. On the contrary, I believe it proves there was a real, catastrophic, world-wide flood in antiquity; and that the variations in the stories arose over time after the nations were separated by language. I also believe where they differ from the divinely inspired account in Genesis, they are in error.

From these four families, Noah, his wife, his sons and their wives, the earth was repopulated. God told them upon exiting the ark, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth,” just as He had commanded Adam and Eve.  Now, however, things will be different. Animals will now fear humans, who will have dominion over them. Sadly, some things will remain the same. In chapter 11 we see that mankind is bent on rebellion against God, determined to make a name for themselves, and so they built a ziggurat – a great tower – to show their disdain for His authority. God took notice and turned our common language into babbling, scattering us over the face of the earth, eventually to build separate nations.

The parasha ends with a genealogy – Shem’s. We see the beginnings here of a chosen lineage. It will not be through Cham (Ham) or through Yafet (Japheth) that Israel emerges, but through Shem. And Shem’s genealogy leads us, at the end of chapter 11, to Terah and his sons, and we are introduced to one particular son of Terah, Avram (Abram). This Abram will have a unique relationship with God, much as Noah did, and the history which is of particular interest to us begins here, with this man.

But understand something: this isn’t very long after Adam and Eve. The Genesis chronology puts Methuselah’s death just before the Flood. And over 200 years of his life overlapped with Adam’s! My point is that these people knew about God. And as thoroughly evil as humanity had become, they were also religious. We are religious by nature. Even rebels are religious.

Thing is, we want to do religion on our own terms. That’s one of the reasons I never use the expression ‘unchurched’ to describe people who don’t know the Lord. Do we really think the problem is that they don’t attend religious services (as though that’s the cure), and one is as good as another? We should say what we mean: they are unsaved – on a trajectory toward eternal judgment. ‘Unsaved’ sounds more urgent than ‘unchurched’ doesn’t it? We haven’t been honest with ourselves about the urgency of evangelism, and rather than repent of complacency, we’ve adjusted our vocabulary.

There is a sobering message for us in the account of Noah, for there is a great Final Judgment coming upon the earth, and human beings have just two options: get in the boat, as it were, or perish. “Getting in the boat” may require you to endure ridicule. I’ll bet Noah was the laughingstock of the community while laboring over that enormous Ark. True faith is evident when a person willingly endures ridicule or even outright hostility for obedience’s sake. And it usually escalates. Laughter and insult give way to intimidation and threats; and eventually some kind of attack.

Yeshua warned us that, in the generation of His return, the world will be as it was in the days of Noah. People will be going about their business, indifferent to God, belittling the notion of judgment; eating and drinking and marrying, and Yeshua tells us “they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away”.

Friends, we need to be people of discernment. His return is near! We’ve got to be ready, and we’ve got to warn others. Yeshua is our Ark of Salvation from the coming Judgment. But as it was at the Flood, when the door closes on that ark, you’re either safely inside or you will surely perish.