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Rumination #2: Is grace unmerited favor?

For those of us that hold that our eternal salvation is dependent upon G-d's grace, and not our ability to earn His favor, it seems quite easy to define "grace" as simply "unmerited favor." Unfortunately, the issue is far more complex than our theologies permit. You see, "chen" [grace] is first used in reference to someone who apparently earned G-d's favor: Noah.

We are first introduced to chen in the phrase, "v'Noach matza chen b'ayini HaShem." [And Noah found grace in the eyes of HaShem].

Scripture does not record at what point in Noah's life that he "found grace in the eyes of HaShem" - it simply says that he did. The Bible often does this. When our theologies demand that we know the sequence, the cause and effect, the Bible simply tells us the facts - which carries with it the eternal challenge, "So what are you going to do about this?" Sadly, we often want to know the mechanics, before committing to the process. More importantly, we often lose sight of the Person of HaShem as we seek for more information. Remember, it is in the eyes of HaShem that Noah found chen.

What we learn about the practicality of chen in the life of Noah is how we all live with the choice between disobedience and obedience. Noah chose correctly, and we see how G-d called him a Tzadik [righteous man] in verse 9. In the arguments of theology, which may be quite important, we may miss the most important verse in the entire account of the first mention of chen [grace]:

Noah did this; he did all that G-d commanded him.
Genesis 6:22

While we search out the sequence and examine the theology, let's never lose sight of our response to Scripture's eternal challenge: "So what are you going to do about this?"

Oh, and yes, there is some deep information in the account of Noah. "Noach" is spelled Nun-Chet. "Chen" is spelled Chet-Nun. It is an anagram which points to the word resting between the words "Noach" and  "Chen" in the Torah scroll - the word matza [found], which is spelled Mem-Tzadi-Alef (not the "matza" of Pesach, which is spelled Mem-Tzadi-Hay). Interesting, "rest" [noach] and "grace" [chen] joined by "found" [matza]. Dig into these words and maybe you will find the answer to the question…

Parashat Noach - 'Noah' (Genesis 6:9-11:32)

This week's parashah is named for the man Noah. G-d calls him "a just man, perfect in his generations." Like his ancestor Enoch, Noah walked with G-d.

The title of this week's portion comes from the first line of verse nine:

Ele toldot Noach. Noach ish tzadik tamim haya b'dorotav. Et-haElokim hithalekh Noach.

This is the genealogy of Noah. Noah was a just man, perfect in his generations. Noah walked with G-d.

I love Noah for several reasons. First of all, I can identify with a man who has three sons. Being a father to my three sons is one of my most important roles - only behind being a disciple of our Master Yeshua and a husband to my wife.

Another reason I love Noah is because the entire account of how HaShem uses Noah to bring rest. You see, beloved, Noah is a shadow of the Messiah. It is all tied up in Noah's name, and the amazing story of redemption in this week's portion.

At the end of last week's Scripture portion, we read why Noah was named.

This one [Noah] will comfort us concerning our work and the toil of our hands, because of the ground which HaShem has cursed.
Genesis 5:29

This is likely a word play on Noah's name and comparing it to the word for "comfort" (Noah = Noach; Comfort = Nachum). It may simply be the acknowledgement that true comfort and true rest are one and the same.

Noah [Noach] is spelled nun-chet. It is a simple two-letter name, but the letters themselves speak of a Seed who protects (nun pictures a seed or a son; chet pictures a fence or an inner room).

Hebrew is not only a pictorial language, it is a verb-based language. To better understand the meaning of a word, it helps to go to its verb root. The root for Noah's name [Noach] is the verb nuach. Nuach means "to rest," and Noah's name literally means, "rest." That word nuach is very important in understanding G-d's redemptive plan.

The first variant of the verb nuach is used in Genesis 2:15. It says,

And HaShem G-d took the man, and put [yanichehu, from nuach] him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.
Genesis 2:15

The next usage of this verb shows us an interesting connection:

And the ark rested [tanach] in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, upon the mountains of Ararat.
Genesis 8:4

Right away, from these two usages we can see the supernatural act of placing man into a space and a time. Adam was placed supernaturally in the Garden. Noah and the other seven were placed supernaturally in the post-flood world. Nuach not only points to rest, it points to transcendence - moving from one world to another, from one state to another. But wait, it gets better.

After the sin of the Golden Calf, Moses pleaded with G-d regarding the Children of Israel, and how he, Moses, was to lead them. Here is how Moses pleaded, and how HaShem answered:

[Moses said,] "Now therefore, I pray, if I have found grace in Your sight, show me now Your way, that I may know You and that I may find grace in Your sight. And consider that this nation is Your people."

And He [HaShem] said, "My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest [hanichoti, from nuach]."
Exodus 33:13-14

What is the rest that the Presence of the Holy One, blessed is He, leads to? It is not merely a ceasing. It was not merely entering the Promised Land for that generation. It is a rest that transcends. It is about the World to Come. We are given other glimpses of this in how Scripture connects the idea of nuach and the Sabbath.

For in six days HaShem made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested [yanach, from nuach] the seventh day: wherefore HaShem blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it.
Exodus 20:11

The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews draws a connection between rest, the Sabbath, and the World to Come.

For He has spoken in a certain place of the seventh day in this way: "And G-d rested [katapauo] on the seventh day from all His works;"

For if Joshua had given them rest [katapauo], then He would not afterward have spoken of another day. There remains therefore a rest [Sabbath] for the people of G-d.
Hebrews 4:4; 8-9

By using the Septuagint to take a Greek word and discover the Hebrew equivalent, we learn that katapauo is the Greek equivalent to the Hebrew word nuach.

Beloved, the rest [nuach] we experience each week in the Shabbat and in the Festivals, is a shadow of the rest [nuach] we will experience in the World to Come. Shabbat teaches us about the World to Come. The Presence of the Almighty is leading us to rest [nuach]. It is Messiah Himself that leads us back to the state of rest [nuach] in the Garden. He alone can purify us of our sin. He alone can lead us, transcending this world, into the World to Come.

As you study this week's portion Noach, seek to understand not only how your ancestor Noah was used to redeem the eight, but also how he points to the Messiah Who redeems the many. And when the Shabbat begins this Friday evening, reflect on how this sanctifying of time points to a time yet to come when Messiah will give us the ultimate rest [nuach]. That day will be Yom Shekulo Shabbat, a time that is all Shabbat.

Yeshua said,

Come to me, all of you who are struggling and burdened, and I will give you rest [from the same root as katapauo, hence nuach]. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
Matthew 11:28-30

Haftarat Noach - 'Noah' (Isaiah 54:1-55:5)

This week's Torah portion begins with the description of Noah. He was an ish tzadik, [righteous man]. He was tamiym [perfect]. We read of the Flood account; the rainbow covenant; and the first hint of the "tents" of the righteous (the tents of Shem). The haftarah portion draws from the themes of Parashat Noach.

Every time you see a rainbow, you can know that G-d is still in covenant with His people Israel. Guaranteed. First, you can know that G-d is a covenant-keeping G-d - and that if He says something, it stands forever. Of course, replacement theologians have tried to make the Sinai covenant into a "conditional covenant" to explain their errant theology. Sadly, those who adhere to what is called "covenant theology" sometimes are ones who do not understand the G-d of covenants. G-d never annuls His covenants. They are all forever. All of them. Let me show you how this week's haftarah reading from the Prophets makes this point. Our haftarah portion begins like this:

"Sing, O barren, you who have not borne! Break forth into singing, and cry aloud, you who have not labored with child! For more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married woman," says HaShem. "Enlarge the place of your tent, and let them stretch out the curtains of your dwellings; do not spare; lengthen your cords, and strengthen your stakes."
Isaiah 54:1-2

Who is this barren one? It is Israel. We will see that as we continue to read. And after all, who but Israel is famous for barren women who gave birth? Sarah, Rivkah [Rebekah], Rachel, and Hannah. Worse, this barren one, Israel, is not barren without cause. She is the sotah - the unfaithful wife of Numbers 5:12-30, who, when it was discovered that she has been unfaithful in the "test of the sotah" she is struck with barrenness. Her thigh and belly were swollen and she became barren. She is indeed the unfaithful spouse of G-d that some theologies use to replace Israel as the covenant people. But the story does not end there beloved. Just like the story does not end with the Flood.

This barren one, this unfaithful wife is barren no more. Her tents need to be enlarged. These are the "tents of Shem" - these are the "tents of Jacob" - they are the loveliest thing on earth - because in them dwells the Presence of the Almighty and an invitation for all peoples to dwell there with Him, amongst His covenant people. Israel has gone from being disgraced, unfaithful, and barren to being beloved by her Husband, and with countless offspring:

"Do not fear, for you will not be ashamed; neither be disgraced, for you will not be put to shame; for you will forget the shame of your youth, and will not remember the reproach of your widowhood anymore.

For your Maker is your Husband, HaShem of hosts is His Name; and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel; He is called the G-d of the whole earth. For HaShem has called you like a woman forsaken and grieved in spirit, like a youthful wife when you were refused," Says your G-d.
Isaiah 54:4-6

So, G-d has not divorced Himself from His bride, Israel. No beloved, may it never be, because if it were so, none of us would have any hope. He goes on to tell His beloved Israel:

For a mere moment I have forsaken you, but with great mercies I will gather you. With a little wrath I hid My face from you for a moment; but with everlasting kindness I will have mercy on you," Says HaShem, your Redeemer.
Isaiah 54:7-8

Get the picture? Apparently, the church in the Second and Third Centuries did not actual read Scripture before formulating their spurious doctrines regarding Israel. As such, their theologies made a mockery of the Maker of Heaven of Earth - the One Who always keeps His covenant promises. Every time they saw a rainbow, their error was magnified.

For this is like the waters of Noah to Me; for as I have sworn that the waters of Noah would no longer cover the earth, so have I sworn that I would not be angry with you, nor rebuke you. For the mountains shall depart and the hills be removed, but My kindness shall not depart from you, nor shall My covenant of peace be removed," Says HaShem, who has mercy on you.
Isaiah 54:9-10

HaShem's covenant of peace rests upon Israel forever. Not metaphorical Israel. Not some replacement for Israel. Not "the church." On Israel, the barren one who is no longer barren. She is the bride, the only bride. She is the bride of Revelation 19. She is the bride of Ephesians 5. The rainbow is revealed as her "wedding ring" - the pledge of eternal covenant by the Almighty.

I love the Messianic overtones that the Gutnick Edition Chumash includes in their translation of Isaiah 54:4.

... and you will no longer remember the disgrace of your widowhood (when you were a people without a King)...

Yes, the sotah, the unfaithful wife has been judged and found wanting. She drank of the waters of testing (Numbers 5:17-20). She was proved to be unfaithful. But, her Husband was not just any Husband. He was HaShem, the Merciful and Compassionate One. He forgave her and called her once again to Himself. She once again has a King. He is Messiah - and one day He will reign in His city Jerusalem. Then all the earth will recognize that when they see a rainbow they should thank the Almighty that He keeps His covenants - His covenants with Israel.

Consider what the Holy One, blessed is He, is promising to Israel - to Jerusalem:

O you afflicted one, tossed with tempest, and not comforted, behold, I will lay your stones with colorful gems, and lay your foundations with sapphires. I will make your pinnacles of rubies, your gates of crystal, and all your walls of precious stones. All your children shall be taught by HaShem, and great shall be the peace of your children. In righteousness you shall be established; you shall be far from oppression, for you shall not fear; and from terror, for it shall not come near you.
Isaiah 54:11-14

That is what the beloved talmid of Yeshua, Yochanan [John] saw in his vision in Revelation 21. This "New Jerusalem" is not a replacement for Israel. It is the Presence of the Almighty dwelling among His people Israel. His bride. His only bride.

Prayer Focus for Noach 'Bonei Yerushalayim' [Builder of Jerusalem]

And to Jerusalem, Your city, may You return in compassion,
and may You rest within it, as you have spoken.
May You rebuild it soon in our days as an eternal structure,
and may You speedily establish the Throne of David within it.
Blessed are You HaShem, the Builder of Jerusalem.

-- Artscroll translation

This prayer is part of the Shemoneh Esrei [the "Eighteen" blessings]. The Shemoneh Esrei, also called the Amidah is ancient. Although its present form comes from right after the late Second Temple period, the sages of the Great Assembly in Ezra's day likely helped organize what is usually credited to Hannah, or Samuel her son. This blessing recognizes G-d's promises regarding Jerusalem, and its eternal standing.

Many a time I have heard a service open with the phrase, "I was glad when they said, let us go into the house of the L-rd." As if that building and that place were what was spoken of. Although surely G-d dwells within the hearts of His people the verse from Psalms 122 is not speaking metaphorically. It is speaking literally. It is speaking of the literal Jerusalem.

I was glad when they said to me, "Let us go into the house of HaShem." Our feet have been standing within your gates, O Jerusalem! Jerusalem is built as a city that is compact together, Where the tribes go up, the tribes of HaShem, to the Testimony of Israel, to give thanks to the Name of HaShem.  For thrones are set there for judgment, the thrones of the house of David. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: "May they prosper who love you. Peace be within your walls, prosperity within your palaces."
Psalms 122:1-9

The prayer for the rebuilding of Jerusalem is the prayer for King Messiah to return and establish His Kingdom and His judgments there. Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem every day, three times a day. Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem every time you see a rainbow. The barren one is no longer barren.

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Standing in Prayer with all Israel,

Rick Spurlock
Bereans Online