Isaiah 54:1-55:5 (A); 54:1-10 (S)
“Walking by Faith”
by Mark Huey
The second Torah portion begins with the words, “These are the records of the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his time; Noah walked with God” (Genesis 6:9). The first two Torah portions, which initiate the annual Torah cycle, each condense thousands of years of human history into six chapters of Scripture. In Bereisheet, the creation of Adam and Eve concludes with the introduction of Noah. Noach focuses intently on the life of Noah and his immediate descendants, concluding with the introduction of Abram.
As I read and meditated upon the story of Noah, his life experiences, and his interactions with the Creator God, it became apparent to me that Noah and his example of faith are recorded as an encouragement to each of us, as we deal with our own personal walks of faith and interactions with God. The author of Hebrews writes that we are required to exercise faith, as Noah did, in order to receive the righteousness that will reward our pursuit of God:
“And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith” (Hebrews 11:6-7).
This Torah portion, devoted to the life of Noah, has been used throughout the ages as a prime example of how we, as people of faith, should behave in the wicked and perverse generations into which we have been born. No matter where we are on our personal journeys, we should each seek to emulate the walk of faith described in this reading, if we want to know how to please God.
When you read this portion, you will discover that the Lord looks upon Noah as a righteous man who was blameless or perfect in his time. Our parashah begins with the words, “These are the records of the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his time; Noah walked with God” (Genesis 6:9).
The Hebrew text records that Noah was an ish tzadiq. Two important Hebrew words are introduced into the Biblical text in the opening verse of Noach, which become critical components of the faith system developed in the balance of the Hebrew Scriptures. The before mentioned tzadiq, often meaning “righteous” or “just,” or various other derivatives, and tamim, often meaning “blameless,” are two very important terms. As you encounter these terms in the Scriptures, you find that “righteous(ness)” and “blameless(ness)” are used liberally throughout the Tanakh, often to describe the requirements for proper communion with the Creator. A holy and righteous God imputes these attributes to the people whom He uses to accomplish His purpose:
“Then the LORD said to Noah, ‘Enter the ark, you and all your household, for you alone I have seen to be righteous [tzadiq] before Me in this time’” (Genesis 7:1).
As you can read, Noah is apparently the only human in his generation who the Lord considered righteous before Him. What was it about Noah that made him righteous? Is it possible that when he heard the voice of God telling him to construct the ark, that his response of faithful obedience to the command resulted in righteousness? The account says that God commanded Noah, and he simply did what he was supposed to:
“Then God said to Noah, ‘The end of all flesh has come before Me; for the earth is filled with violence because of them; and behold, I am about to destroy them with the earth’…Thus Noah did; according to all that God had commanded him, so he did” (Genesis 6:13, 22).
According to the closing verses of the Torah portion Bereisheet, as God observed the perversity and wretchedness of Noah’s generation, His survey of humanity allowed Him to determine that only one man and his family were worthy to be spared:
“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 continually. The LORD 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.’ But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD” (Genesis 6:5-8).
Apparently, Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord. He was considered righteous and blameless because he “walked” with Him. We were introduced to the concept of “walking with God” last week in Bereisheet when we read about God taking Enoch:
“Then Enoch walked with God three hundred years after he became the father of Methuselah, and he had other sons and daughters. So all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years. Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him” (Genesis 5:22-24).
The author of Hebrews gives us more insight into why God “took” Enoch, when Enoch is also included in the chapter often called “the Hall of Faith”:
“By faith Enoch was taken up so that he would not see death; AND HE WAS NOT FOUND BECAUSE GOD TOOK HIM UP; for he obtained the witness that before his being taken up he was pleasing to God” (Hebrews 11:5).
While this statement asks more questions than it answers, suffice it to say it was only because Enoch was living properly—that he was taken up by God. But as we are contemplating the life of Noah this week, we are reminded of the interconnectivity of walking by faith and living in a righteous and blameless manner. We see numerous examples in the Apostolic Scriptures (New Testament) that walking by faith is definitely something that pleases our Heavenly Father. As stated earlier, “without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6, NIV).
While digging into the subjects of walking by faith, and being righteous and blameless before the Holy One, images of different saints of old come to mind. I am reminded of Joseph, Daniel, Job, and countless others who have been listed as faithful in their respective walks of faith—many of whom are listed in Hebrews 11, but others who are seen throughout the whole of the Biblical narrative. Throughout the ages there have been others who have exhibited a steadfast walk of faith, and have been righteous and blameless, similar to Noah. There is a specific scene I think of in the Gospels, where the Lord used some people who are described just like Noah, for His redemptive purposes. One such couple is Zacharias and Elizabeth, the parents of John the Immerser:
“In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah; and he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. They were both righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord” (Luke 1:5-6).
Zacharias and Elizabeth were a couple who feared the Lord and “were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commandments and regulations blamelessly” (NIV). As a result of their Torah obedient walk, the Lord chose them to conceive and bear a child whose unique prophetic ministry would immediately precede the ministry of the Messiah.
The birth of John the Baptist, and the subsequent description of the announcement of Yeshua’s birth to Joseph and Mary, have become a critical part of our faith. After all, the progressive revelation that has come forth since the days of Noah has further specified the requirements for communion with the Creator God. Believing in the atoning work of Yeshua at Golgotha (Calvary) is now necessary in the post-resurrection era in which we live. Yeshua Himself said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6).
Walk by Faith
In spite of the fact that we did not live multiple millennia ago during the time of Noah, one thing is certain: the necessity to walk by faith, with the revelation that you have received, has never changed. Enoch walked in the knowledge that he had, and it pleased the Creator. In a like manner, Noah walked in righteousness blamelessly, and because of his obedience to God, he and his immediate family were preserved from the judgment of the Flood. Millennia later, Zacharias and Elizabeth walked by faith in obedience to God’s Torah, and they were used to produce the one who would be used to point others to the Messiah. Zecharias, moved by the Holy Spirit, declared at John the Immerser’s circumcision,
“And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go on BEFORE THE LORD TO PREPARE HIS WAYS; to give to His people the knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, with which the Sunrise from on high will visit us, TO SHINE UPON THOSE WHO SIT IN DARKNESS AND THE SHADOW OF DEATH, to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Luke 1:76-79; cf. Malachi 3:1; Isaiah 9:2; 59:8).
Zacharias and Elizabeth both knew by revelation, that the coming Child, Yeshua—the yet to be born Son of Joseph and Mary—was going to be a special gift. He would have the power to bring salvation and forgiveness to those who walk in darkness.
In the post-resurrection era, further teaching has come forth from the Apostolic Writings which continue to proclaim the need to walk by faith. The Apostle Paul wrote the Corinthians the following admonition, so that they would more fully understand the meaning of “walking by faith”:
“Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge. Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord—for we walk by faith, not by sight—we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord. Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Messiah, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men, but we are made manifest to God; and I hope that we are made manifest also in your consciences. We are not again commending ourselves to you but are giving you an occasion to be proud of us, so that you will have an answer for those who take pride in appearance and not in heart. For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are of sound mind, it is for you. For the love of Messiah controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf” (2 Corinthians 5:5-15).
Here, Paul clarifies the admonition to “walk by faith, not by sight,” to the Corinthians. Paul tells them that his ambition, whether in the body or absent from the Lord, is to be “pleasing to Him.” It is not too dissimilar from what Enoch experienced in his life. But the big difference that makes us as post-resurrection saints different from those who preceded the arrival of the Messiah—is the fact that we now have the specific knowledge of how Yeshua died for all. If we believe this, we can be sure to have redemption.
Possessing faith also requires that we recognize that those who do not believe will experience punishment. The additional requirement to avoid the future judgment is absolutely critical for the Body of Messiah. As the Apostle Peter puts it, faith in the finished work of the Messiah is without substitute. In fact, he says that it was the good news to which angels long to look, only intensifying its significance:
“In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Yeshua the Messiah; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls. As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries, seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Messiah within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Messiah and the glories to follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things into which angels long to look” (1 Peter 1:6-12).
Today, the true faith is under considerable attack from mockers who have been predicted since the days of Peter. Some in the Messianic community challenge the veracity of the Apostolic Scriptures because they were written in Greek, and not Hebrew. In doing so, there has been a subtle tendency to deny or pervert the Spirit-inspired revelation that has come forth from these documents. As a sad consequence, in recent years, various people who had claimed to know the Messiah of Israel have lost their sure moorings in the Rock of Salvation. They have been cleverly convinced that a form of “works righteousness” is the only way they can walk, as found in their own human method of “Torah observance.” This kind of life diminishes or discounts the atoning work of our Messiah Yeshua, as opposed to a proper obedience coming forth as we learn to walk by faith and emulate Him.
As each one of us seeks to “walk by faith,” let us all remember that in order to please our Heavenly Father, we must recognize and believe in the work His Son performed for us at Golgotha (Calvary). We must not allow ourselves to be tempted by mockers, who will scorn and ridicule not only the life-changing message of the gospel—but most especially the declaration of the final judgment required of human beings. Peter states this predicament most clearly, relying upon the account of the Flood:
“Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, ‘Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.’ For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water. But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men” (2 Peter 3:3-7).
Today, each one of us must “walk by faith” in the righteousness and blamelessness that has been provided for us in the work of the Messiah. May this profound truth keep us all from the definite judgment to come! May all come to repentance, so that no one need experience such punishment!
 Cf. Harold G. Stigers, “tzadeiq,” in R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer, Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, eds., Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, 2 vols. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1980), 2:725-755.
 Cf. William L. Holladay, ed., A Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (Leiden, the Netherlands: Brill, 1988), 391.
 Consult A Survey of the Apostolic Scriptures for the Practical Messianic by J.K. McKee.