Our text comes from the book of Genesis Chapter 9, verses 26 and 27. We are all familiar with the Biblical account of Noah and the flood, and how GOD saved him and his family, eight persons in all, from the deluge that engulfed the world. We celebrate that merciful deliverance in our songs, and rightly so. If it had not been for Noah, we would not be here today.
The Bible tells us in Genesis Chapter 6 and verse 8:
But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD. We have benefited from his godliness long before the tradition arose about the ‘lamed-vav tsaddikim’ the thirty-six righteous men for whose sake GOD spares the present world. We would naturally pay close attention to Noah when he foretells what would happen to his sons, because it concerns us all. Here in the words of our text is a very important prediction regarding Shem, the ancestor of Abraham avinu, our father, Abraham; and Japheth, the ancestor of the Gentiles. What does Noah say?
In the first instance, he blesses the LORD, the GOD of Shem, and the reason he does so is because the LORD is the GOD of Shem. GOD has become the GOD of Shem pre-eminently. Such an honour bestowed on Shem deserves Noah’s Thanksgiving and praise. It is as much as to say that those who seek GOD will find Him through the man He chose. This leads directly on to the blessing on Shem’s older brother, Japheth. The name ‘Japheth’ means ‘enlargement’, and using a deliberate play of words, Noah predicts that GOD will enlarge his posterity and dwelling places. When it comes to divine privileges, however, those are reserved for his younger brother, and if Japheth is to find the true GOD, he must seek Him in the tents of Shem. Men used their tents as places of worship before the temple at Jerusalem was built. And this prophecy declares that Japheth must worship with Shem if he desires to worship the LORD, the GOD of Shem.
The meaning is clear; GOD has entrusted the true faith to Shem and his descendants. Those descendants are Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and all their descendants. No wonder YESHUA said to the woman at the well,
Salvation is of the Jews,John 4, verse 22. Through the Jewish people GOD has given the Bible, the Word of GOD that reveals Him to mankind. There is no other book apart from these wonderful Scriptures that can, or does.
Through the Jewish people, GOD has given the Messiah, the Redeemer from sin, both for Gentiles and Jews. Such a tremendous privilege is equally a tremendous responsibility. It stands to reason that we, the descendants of the patriarchs should welcome and invite our fellow man to worship the true GOD with us.
Among the thirteen principles of the Jewish faith drawn up by Rambam, or Maimonides, are the following: I believe with perfect faith that the Creator, blessed be His Name, is the Author and Guide of everything that has been created. That to the Creator, blessed be His Name, and to Him alone, it is right to pray. That all the words of the prophets are true. That the Creator, blessed be His Name, rewards those that keep His Commandments and punishes those that transgress them. I believe with perfect faith in the coming of the Messiah; that there will be a resurrection of the dead; for Thy salvation I hope, O LORD.
Such are some of the statements found in our daily Siddur, our Book of Prayer. These statements are derived from Scriptures such as the following:
In the beginning GOD created the heavens and the earth, Genesis, Chapter 1 verse 1.
You shall fear the LORD your GOD and serve Him. You shall not go after other gods. Deuteronomy 6, verses 13 and 14.
Believe In the LORD your GOD and you shall be established. Believe His prophets and you shall prosper. 2nd Chronicles 20, verse 20.
The LORD, the LORD GOD, merciful and gracious, longsuffering and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin; by no means clearing the guilty. Exodus 34, verses 6 and 7.
As for the coming of the Messiah, Moses and all the prophets wrote and spoke of Him at great length so that the true Jewish faith is Messianic in tone. All the Hebrew Scriptures center on the Messiah, as also the writings of the Talmud declare. Here are some of the promises of Messiah:
- Moses wrote in Deuteronomy 18 verse 15:
The LORD your GOD will raise up for you a prophet like Me, from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear. Isaiah wrote in Chapter 9 and verse 6:
For unto us a Child is born; unto us a Son is given, and the Government will be upon His shoulder, and His Name will be called, ‘Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty GOD, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
- Jeremiah, the prophet wrote in Chapter 23, verses 5 and 6:
Behold, the days are coming says the LORD, that I will raise to David a branch of righteousness. A king shall reign and prosper and execute judgment and righteousness in the earth. In His days, Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell safely. Now this is His Name by which He will be called, ‘the LORD our Righteousness’, ‘ADONAI Tzidkenu’.
All these and many more proclaim that Messiah is a prophet, a mighty King over all the earth, a Righteous Deliverer, and most important of all, Divine in nature. It is through Him that we are accounted righteous before GOD. In simple terms, it means that salvation comes through Him, ADONAI Tzidkenu. Such a message that involves the happiness of mankind, deserves to be spread abroad. The tents of Shem ought to be wide enough for all the sons of Japheth to worship in.
Our responsibility is to invite all our fellow men to join us in the service of the true GOD. It would be unconscionable to keep such a Treasure to ourselves. The leading question is: What are we doing to share these blessings? Have we withheld them from those that need them? How many of us are prepared to be a blessing to our fellow men? Listen to what Solomon, the wise king wrote in Proverbs 24, verses 11 and 12:
Deliver those who are drawn toward death, and hold back those stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, surely we did not know this, does not He Who weighs the hearts consider it? He who keeps your soul, does He not know it? and will He not render to each man according to his deeds? The world will be a better place when Noah’s prophecy comes to pass, but that also depends upon us, the successors of Shem.