When God Wrecks Our Plans

Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. — Genesis 11:1

The  portion for this week is , from the name of the main character, Noah. It is from Genesis 6:9 –11:32, and the Haftorah is from Isaiah 54:1–55:5.

Most people have a plan for their lives. While it varies from person to person, we each have a script we’d like to follow. Sometimes life goes according to plan, but other times there are unexpected twists and turns. Then there are times when it feels as if our story has been totally rewritten in ways we don’t like. We are left wondering why God would so definitively wreck the plans we made for our lives.

In the latter half of this week’s Torah portion, we read about the Tower of Babel. The people of the time had a plan. As humanity began to grow following the flood, they settled in the plain of Shinar, built cities, and developed a united society. However, God didn’t seem to like their plans very much. He determined that He must intervene and confuse the people by changing their language so they could no longer be united and work efficiently together.

On the surface, it’s seems strange that God would take such action. From the information we’re given about these people, it seemed like they had a united, peaceful society. The Bible tells us, “Now the whole world had one language and a common speech.” Why would God interfere with that?

The Sages provide some insight. They explain that the king at that time was Nimrod – the same king who ruled during the time of Abraham. According to tradition, King Nimrod persecuted Abraham for his rejection of idolatry and tried to kill him. Abraham was able to escape to Canaan where he found safe refuge and was able to start teaching the world about the one loving God, forever altering the course of history for the better.

However, if the plans of the generation who planned the Tower of Babel had succeeded – had they established and secured a united society under one king (Nimrod) – Abraham would have had nowhere to run. The whole world would have been against him! God knew that the world needed Abraham, and so He foiled the plans that ultimately would have harmed Abraham. God saved the world from itself!

Friends, when we make plans that will ultimately destroy us, God will destroy our plans. Sometimes it doesn’t make sense to us; it seems unfair and unjust. But as we read in Isaiah 55:8–9, God’s thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are not our ways: “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” God’s plan is always the best plan – even when it comes at the expense of our own.

Hosea 14:4 I will love them freely.  

This sentence is a body of divinity in miniature. He who understands its meaning is a theologian, and he who can dive into its fulness is a true master in Israel. It is a condensation of the glorious message of salvation which was delivered to us in Christ Jesus our Redeemer. The sense hinges upon the word “freely.” This is the glorious, the suitable, the divine way by which love streams from heaven to earth, a spontaneous love flowing forth to those who neither deserved it, purchased it, nor sought after it. It is, indeed, the only way in which God can love such as we are. The text is a death-blow to all sorts of fitness: “I will love them freely.” Now, if there were any fitness necessary in us, then He would not love us freely, at least, this would be a mitigation and a drawback to the freeness of it. But it stands, “I will love you freely.” We complain, “Lord, my heart is so hard.” “I will love you freely.” “But I do not feel my need of Christ as I could wish.” “I will not love you because you feel your need; I will love you freely.” “But I do not feel that softening of spirit which I could desire.” Remember, the softening of spirit is not a condition, for there are no conditions; the covenant of grace has no conditionality whatever; so that we without any fitness may venture upon the promise of God which was made to us in Christ Jesus, when He said, “He that believeth on Him is not condemned.” It is blessed to know that the grace of God is free to us at all times, without preparation, without fitness, without money, and without price! “I will love them freely.” These words invite backsliders to return: indeed, the text was specially written for such-“I will heal their backsliding; I will love them freely.” Backslider! surely the generosity of the promise will at once break your heart, and you will return, and seek your injured Father’s face.

Stop Fighting in Your Own Strength

We do not wage war as the world does.” 2Co10:3 NIV

During World War II, Allied bombers carried machine guns in the nose, under the belly, on top, and in the rear. B-17’s, better known as “flying fortresses,” carried thirteen .50 caliber machine guns. At one point scientists suggested the planes might actually be safer without them. Without the extra weight needed to operate the guns, they could fly faster and higher, increasing their odds of survival. The pilots, however, thought differently. They wouldn’t even consider embarking on a mission without guns to shoot back and defend themselves. With that thought in mind, Jon Walker says: “We make the same choice when it comes to fighting our own battles. God says we don’t need the guns…we can soar higher and faster with Him. ‘For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.’ The weapons he gives ‘have divine power to demolish strongholds’; we don’t need the ‘weapons of the world’ (2Co 10:3-4 NIV). But we say ‘No thanks’; we have to shoot back and defend ourselves with arsenals of angry words, demanding attitudes, manipulative maneuvers, excessive excuses, and bombs of blame. It takes courage to stop using weapons of the flesh, ‘take up the shield of faith,’ and arm ourselves with the weapons of God (Eph 6:16 NIV). It’s the kind of faith David showed when he [told] Goliath, ‘You come against me with sword and spear…but I come against you in the name of the Lord’ (1Sa17:45 NIV). Stop fighting in your own strength and let God’s spiritual arsenal defend you; ‘He is a shield to those who take refuge in him’ (Pr 30:5 NIV).”

2 Corinthians 5:14 The love of Christ constraineth us.

How much owest thou unto my Lord? Has He ever done anything for thee? Has He forgiven thy sins? Has He covered thee with a robe of righteousness? Has He set thy feet upon a rock? Has He established thy goings? Has He prepared heaven for thee? Has He prepared thee for heaven? Has He written thy name in His book of life? Has He given thee countless blessings? Has He laid up for thee a store of mercies, which eye hath not seen nor ear heard? Then do something for Jesus worthy of His love. Give not a mere wordy offering to a dying Redeemer. How will you feel when your Master comes, if you have to confess that you did nothing for Him, but kept your love shut up, like a stagnant pool, neither flowing forth to His poor or to His work. Out on such love as that! What do men think of a love which never shows itself in action? Why, they say, “Open rebuke is better than secret love.” Who will accept a love so weak that it does not actuate you to a single deed of self-denial, of generosity, of heroism, or zeal! Think how He has loved you, and given Himself for you! Do you know the power of that love? Then let it be like a rushing mighty wind to your soul to sweep out the clouds of your worldliness, and clear away the mists of sin. “For Christ’s sake” be this the tongue of fire that shall sit upon you: “for Christ’s sake” be this the divine rapture, the heavenly afflatus to bear you aloft from earth, the divine spirit that shall make you bold as lions and swift as eagles in your Lord’s service. Love should give wings to the feet of service, and strength to the arms of labour. Fixed on God with a constancy that is not to be shaken, resolute to honour Him with a determination that is not to be turned aside, and pressing on with an ardour never to be wearied, let us manifest the constraints of love to Jesus. May the divine loadstone draw us heavenward towards itself.

The Reasons for the Seasons

As long as the earth endures,
seedtime and harvest,
cold and heat,
summer and winter,
day and night
will never cease.” — Genesis 8:22

The  portion for this week is , from the name of the main character, Noah. It is from Genesis 6:9 –11:32, and the Haftorah is from Isaiah 54:1–55:5.

What if life were perfect? What if it were spring every day? Not too hot, not too cold, but just right. The flowers would always be in bloom, the fruit and vegetables ready to pluck. Every day would be the perfect day; not a cloud in the sky. How great would life be?

This week’s Torah portion indicates that life wouldn’t be very great at all. The portion is called Noach, not just because that is the name of the main character in the story, but also because it is the Hebrew word for “comfort.” This is the story of what happens when life is always comfortable. In fact, according to tradition, in the time of Noah, it only rained once every 40 years! That was enough to sustain life for four consecutive decades. There were no seasons and no problems. It was spring every day.

Sounds like paradise, but exactly the opposite was true. The result of such a comfortable environment was that no one ever lacked anything and so no one ever had to ask for anything. People stopped praying, and with that, they lost their connection to God. It was a downward spiral from there until the people became utterly corrupt and God had no choice but to destroy them and start all over again.

This time, God did things differently. He promised, “As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.” Usually, this verse is understood to mean that God promised never to flood the world again. However, the Sages teach that it also shows us that this was the point in time when God created the seasons.

God wanted mankind to be cold in the winter so that they would pray for heat. God wished that people would be hot in the summer so that they would pray for cooling. God wanted us to miss long days in the winter and pray for more daylight hours that would come in the summer. He wanted us to plant and then pray for rain and a good harvest. God wanted people to experience longing and lacking so that they would pray to Him. Through prayer, people would connect with God and become more godly. Not only that, but through prayer, people could also receive far more than they would without asking for it.

It’s natural and normal to enjoy being comfortable. However, at the same time, we have to remember that there is a blessing in being uncomfortable. I pray that we all enjoy many comforts and blessings in our lives, but that we also experience a healthy dose of discomfort from time to time so that we will pray, grow closer to God, and enjoy even more blessings.