Saturday 2nd November 2019 4th Cheshvan 5780
PARASHAT NO'ACH by Alan Gilman
Genesis 6:9-11:32 ; Isaiah 54:1-55:5; Matthew 3-4
And God said to Noah, "I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth. (Bereshit/Genesis 6:13)
A few years ago, I was at a family gathering, chatting with a relative who recently had his first child. I don't remember how it came up, but he expressed great fear about his child's future due to the looming climate crisis. That was the first time I had encountered such emotion over what has, since then, turned into a frenzy. As sixteen-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thumberg has said: "I don't want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act. I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if our house is on fire. Because it is."
My reaction to my relative's panic years ago was along the lines of "Don't worry; it'll be okay." How ironic, I thought. My immediate family are the only believers in our whole clan on both sides. Everyone else is somewhere on the agnostic/atheist spectrum. It wasn't that long ago that disaster predictions were the sole domain of religious folks. Remember images of prophetic wannabees waving placards blazoned with messages, like "Prepare to meet thy Maker" or "The world will end in forty days"? Back then it was secular materialists shrugging off such gloom and doom in the name of scientific knowhow and technological progress. No more! The roles are reversed. It is secularists who are predicting the end of the world as we know it; while many believers like me are calling for calm. But should we be calm?
Climate disaster is not new to our planet. Neither is it new to the Scriptures. This week's parsha (Torah reading portion) records history's most destructive event, weather or otherwise, when God rebooted his creation through a flood that destroyed all air breathing creatures except for Noah, his family, and the animals on the ark.
This climate disaster reflects the biblical principle of the relationship between human behavior and the environment. Where I agree with the climate prophets is that we can't treat our world anyway we like and expect everything to always and forever be okay. Where we differ is that there is more to this, not less, than the burning of fossil fuels and greenhouse gasses. While as stewards of the planet (see Bereshit/Genesis 1:26-27), it's essential to keep watch over what we put into the air, the effects of our lifestyles are the results, not of the cars and factories per se, but of the values behind how we live.
Activists and some political leaders claim if we would only adjust emissions, we may be able to avert climate disaster. But until we are willing to look seriously at what actually fuels (pun intended) our way of life, the coming disaster will not be averted. When will we take a serious look at the consumerism and greed that controls much of world economy today? I am not simply referring to billion-dollar corporations here. Big business cannot succeed without the everyday consumer. The rich can take great pride in their ability to purchase carbon offsets for their lavish lifestyles while the poor bear the burden of oppressive taxation. All the while the great polluting nations of the world continue to poison the atmosphere and water. The western world won't get in the way of countries that have become manufacturing empires, because we want their inexpensive goods.
And that's just one piece of a most troubling puzzle. The current obsession over climate is a convenient distraction from the grave issues plaguing the planet. It's a lot easier to take off from work or school to attend a climate strike, than it is to effectively address destructive forces such as family breakdown, identity confusion, pornography, and abortion.
Perhaps changing climate will have disastrous effects on our planet, but it's the social climate that should concern us the most. Not only is it something that you and I can address right now, the benefits are world changing.
Is it possible for a threshold to be crossed, at which point, God removes His providential hand off mankind? The bible teaches that this is possible.
‘for the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men’.
Here, in Romans chapter 1, Sha’ul writes that instead of worshipping the Creator, in their futile thinking, mankind began to worship the creation – the sun, moon, planets, animals etc. Three times, we read ‘and God gave them over’ to their own evil ways. Paul forcefully states that no one has an excuse!
This is precisely what occurred in our parasha this Shabbat. Other than Noa’ch and his family, mankind was beyond redemption. HaShem gave them every opportunity to come to their sense and make teshuva – the ark took 120 years to build! – but they persisted in their wickedness until the threshold was crossed and the Father determined to make a new start with righteous Noah. This is not merely a story to read to your kids at bed-time; there is a serious message here. Which is why Yeshua referred back to this parasha in
‘For just as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For in those days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark. And they did not understand until the flood came and swept them all away. So shall it be at the coming of the Son of Man’.
We are living in those days right now! We are living in times where evil is called good, and good, called evil. We have lost our compass – morally, ethically and spiritually. We are, I believe, at a crossroads and the Father persists in offering us a choice – Deuteronomy 30 – ‘choose life’!
In Revelation 21, John speaks of a new heaven and a new earth, and the new Jerusalem descending from above. Within this city are the living waters and the tree of life. There is no night there because the LORD is our eternal light!
Its gates shall never be shut by day for there shall be no night there!
Note: The gates of the new Jerusalem are never shut; it is always open for those who choose life and not death. The Father desires that ‘no one should perish but that all should come to the knowledge of the truth’.
How fortunate are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the Tree of Life and may enter through the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the sexually immoral and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood. I, Yeshua, have sent My angel to testify these things to you for My communities. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star."
There are those who deliberately crossed that threshold and have chosen death! It might be difficult for one to accept that this is possible but the Word of God is very clear. Remember the lessons of Sodom and Gomorrah. Not one righteous individual!
2 Peter 2:4-6
For God did not spare angels when they sinned, but threw them into Sheol. He put them in chains of gloomy darkness, to be held until the judgment. He did not spare the ancient world. He preserved only Noah, a proclaimer of righteousness, along with seven others, when He brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly. He devastated the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, reducing them to ashes—making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly.