Really, What Is "A Righteous Man"?
“This is the account of Noah: Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God. Genesis 6:9
Is the “Noah portrayed by Russell Crowe in the recent big screen movie someone you would consider “a righteous man, the way God describes Noah in His Word? The Bible tells us enough about the biblical Noah, and not just in Genesis, that you can get a good summation of his character, though certainly not a full biography of his life. If you believe the Bible, you are talking about the biography of a man who lived 950 years; that would make one long biography! The Biblical record of Noah is not so sparse that the depiction of a righteous character is impossible to see. Unfortunately, the director of the movie Noah drew from many non-biblical sources as well and extensively from his own imagination. Desiring the movie to sell both to the culture at large and to the “faith community in the culture, and not be boring in his estimation, he came up with some strange variations to the historical biblical account. His two greatest failures, at least as far as the Bible’s revelation is concerned, was, one, not portraying the real reason for God’s judgment of a flood on all mankind (If the environment was truly being abused as the movie portrays, millenniums prior to the development of massive fossil fuel usage, it was only one of numerous symptoms of moral deterioration and separation from God) and, two, showing us why God was pleased with Noah whom He called a righteous man. One of the greatest lessons for you in the Bible’s Noah account is to observe what really constitutes “a righteous man; someone for you to emulate if you love righteousness.
The Bible does not tell us how or when God’s grace enlightened and enlivened Noah’s sinful heart in his first 500 years of life. We only know when he first appears in the Bible narrative that his life and his heart at that point pleased God. He found favor in God’s eyes. The context tells us that Noah was not a conformer to the world (to the behavior and character of the people who lived in Noah’s generation). Neither peer nor culture pressure guided his life. He obviously stood out as different in what he valued. He marched to the beat of a different drummer: God. And God chose to communicate to Noah in more than a general fashion, i.e. by nature and creation alone; He communicated to him in a special manner, in such a way that Noah knew it was God he was hearing just as Abraham and Jacob and Joseph in dreams knew later in Genesis that God was speaking to them. Today we have what God has specially communicated to us by His Son and His Word; God communicated to Noah by dream, or in some direct manner, and Noah received it as God speaking to him. Consequently, the Bible tells us that “Noah did everything just as God commanded him (Genesis 6:22). God’s Word resulted in specific action.
There is the rub. God told Noah to do something thought completely strange by the culture around him; imagine the scorn and skepticism heaped upon Noah for following God’s commands, like building an ark, an immense ship, with no observable means of getting it to water. St. Paul tells us likewise that the preaching of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing. So the preaching of righteousness by Noah (2 Peter 2:5) was the height of foolishness to all his unwilling neighbors who truly perished. Noah’s righteousness is observed in his perseverance to obey God. The ark took 60 to 75 years to build; as long as my lifetime. People today are not so scornful of someone like Korczak Ziolkowski who from 1947 to when he died in 1982 sculpted a granite mountain in South Dakota into a partial image of the Sioux Indian Chief Crazy Horse. His family continues the now 67 year old project. It is an immense undertaking, but in the end only something upon which to gaze as Mt. Rushmore. The ark, while not beautiful, was an instrument of salvation; the saving of life on earth. But it brought Noah mocking scorn as well as a great sadness in his heart (Like in John 11:35, “Jesus wept.) that his fellow men would drown rather than listen and repent. It is worth noting that God closed the door of the ark Himself, not requiring this of Noah, for those outside the ark clamoring for admittance when the flood was upon them, perished. It was Noah’s obedience to preach righteousness, the results were up to God; today, it is our obedience to preach the gospel, the harvest is the Lord’s.
A righteous man walks in communicable relationship with God. He emphatically trusts His Word even when he does not fully understand it, even while the world laughs and hates. He perseveres in the obedience of God’s commands against all odds and hardships. He loves his neighbors, seeking their salvation, and grieves when they remain unrepentant to God and deaf to the way of salvation. He is still a sinner, but knows true repentance always brings mercy and pardon. He acknowledges and rejoices in the signs of God’s covenant which Noah did for 350 more years every time he saw a rainbow; today we acknowledge and rejoice in the signs of God’s faithful covenant: baptism and the Lord’s Supper (compare 1 Peter 3:20-21), and still are moved with awe and gratitude as we feast our eyes on a magnificent rainbow arcing through the sky after a storm.
If you want to watch a movie of the biblical story of Noah, read God’s Word and let it inform and direct the imagination of your own God created technicolor mind. Trust the truth of God’s Word over the skepticism of the world. A recently released American Bible Society survey reveals that the number of Bible haters is now equal to those who engage the Bible as God’s Word. The righteous man or woman is never swayed by such hatred to turn from loving to do the will of God.
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