The Yiddish word mensch refers to a person of integrity, someone who is responsible, someone who has a clear sense of right and wrong, someone who is the sort of person other people look up to. In other words, someone we would call a “good guy.”
Today’s Shabbat taste of Torah features a mensch for the ages. And that mensch is Noah. And the specific section we want to grab hold of is Genesis 6:9-14, 17-18, and verse 22. It reads: 9 These are the family records of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless among his contemporaries; Noah walked with God. 10 And Noah fathered three sons: Shem, Ham, and Japheth. 11 Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. 12 God saw how corrupt the earth was, for every creature had corrupted its way on the earth. 13 Then God said to Noah,” I have decided to put an end to every creature, for the earth is filled with violence because of them; therefore I am going to destroy them along with the earth. 14 “Make yourself an ark of gopher wood. Make rooms in the ark, and cover it with pitch inside and outside. 17 “Understand that I am bringing a flood — floodwaters on the earth to destroy every creature under heaven with the breath of life in it. Everything on earth will die. 18 But I will establish My covenant with you, and you will enter the ark with your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives. 22 And Noah did this. He did everything that God had commanded him.
Here’s the situation. Here’s what’s happening. As violence increased on the earth God determined to destroy the human race with the exception of those few people to whom He extended grace. Think about this for a moment. Only six chapters into the Bible and the world is already described as being filled with corruption and violence; chamas in Hebrew! And these two words, corruption and violence give us, respectively, the character and expression of the sin in view here; its cause and its effect (v. 11). Corruption led to violence. Corrupt behavior, badness, always leads to exploitation and cruelty in one form or another. A life that is wrong with God always becomes a life that is wrong in relation to its fellow human beings. And in Genesis 6 we see that there were two major reasons for the flood: the sins of the sons of God (vv. 1-4) and the sins of humanity in general (vv. 5-8).
However, Noah stands in direct contrast to the time in which he lived. The Hebrew Scriptures describe Noah as tzadik (righteous) and tamim (blameless). In fact, this is the first time the words “righteous” and “blameless” appear in the Bible! Noah obeyed God even though he saw no evidence of the coming flood. And for that reason Noah is one of the truly outstanding examples of faith in biblical history. Hebrews 11:7 says, By faith Noah, when he was warned about things not yet seen, with reverent regard constructed an ark for the deliverance of his family. Through faith he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.
Noah’s absolute faith in God resulted in uncompromising obedience. He prepared for things to come. He did not live for the present. He continued to believe the promises of God, even when everyone else disbelieved them. He received a new world after the Flood; a righteous spiritual inheritance received by faith.
Like Noah, you and I need to be people who do not lean on our own understanding when deciding how to respond to situations that humanly speaking don’t seem to make a lot of sense (cf. Prov. 3:5)! Instead, we need to roll with Noahic Nike Theology, “Just Do It!” Just do it in terms of trusting wholeheartedly in the Word of the Lord and obeying it. At the end of the day it comes down to faith. And essentially faith is confidence that things yet future and unseen will happen as God has revealed they will (cf. Heb. 11:1). This is the basic nature of faith. But it’s also more than that. Faith in this context is a way of viewing all of life. Faith not only encompasses what lies ahead, it also encompasses the past. It involves accepting God’s viewpoint as He has revealed it in the entirety of His Word (cf. Heb. 11:3). It extends to how things began and how things will end.
As in the days of Noah, when our world is continually and increasingly corrupt and violent (cf. 2 Tim. 3:13), we need to exercise confident trust in the Person of God by courageous obedience to the Word of God. That’s the legacy of Noah. That’s the life of faith. And that’s what being a mensch is all about.