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Noah's Righteousness

Words by Shelley Johnson | Illustrations by Marie Warner Preston

Have you ever found yourself overwhelmed by the news and the heaviness of the events unfolding around you? Noah lived in a time where it was "only evil all the time," and yet still God showed His grace, covenanting with Noah to preserve life and restore what was lost and broken. It's an act of redemption that foreshadows the ultimate redeemer, Christ, and an invitation to us to partner with God to become vessels of His grace.

A few years ago, I made a choice to stop watching the nightly news. Its stories of bloodshed and brutality filled me with a dread that tried to convince me the world is hopeless because it is so evil. The inundation of negative news left me fearful, but I have discovered that when I look beyond the bad, I find families adopting orphans, strangers paying others’ debts, and neighbours helping neighbours. There is still good in the world; it isn’t only evil.

That was not the case in Noah’s day. Genesis 6 opens with what seems a fulfilment of God’s blessing to go forth and multiply, but these “sons of God” have twisted the good gifts He gave them and become tainted by the evil ways of unbelievers. Their mixed marriages and lustful eyes have led them into debauchery and violence. Verse five says plainly of the human race that “every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time.”

Only evil. All the time.

Not a few outliers. Not a particular group. We’re talking about the entirety of humanity. All people, continually nurturing evil in their hearts and minds. Every single person. Every moment of every day.

This is the context for God’s decision to flood the earth. As He looks down on all those He’s created and watches them fall to the temptations of evil, He is grieved. His heart fills with the kind of pain only a much-beloved child can inflict on a devoted parent, a hurt so deep and fundamental that He is sorry to have made them.

In His just and holy way, God readies His hand for judgment because He sees no good.

But Noah.

This one man has continued to live for God when all of humanity has forsaken Him. Described as both ‘righteous,’ tzaddik, and ‘perfect,’ tamim, the Hebrew conveys the idea that both his heart and his actions are right before God, and it is because of this that Noah is called to be the curator during the cleansing of creation. God promises to covenant with this one man to reestablish the world as He’d intended it in the beginning—and in response, Noah does everything just as God commands. Noah steps into faithful obedience, trusting the Creator to recreate on the other side of disaster.

Hebrews 11:7 tells us that “by faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that is in keeping with faith.” Noah’s faith and righteousness in the midst of a world intent on evil is a model for us to follow after, but ultimately, his life points us to Jesus. Through his obedience, Noah establishes himself as an early pattern of the Messiah, a foreshadowing of Christ, the One who came to rescue us from the darkness of sin and recreate us in His image.

As evil as our world often seems, it is not given over to only evil all the time. Good can be found, as can people who remain faithful to God, which means we can look to Noah and then to Jesus to find hope for our lives and a way forward in them. Each time we choose to trust God’s way over the world’s, we’re stepping into a righteousness that we’ve been gifted through Christ’s perfection and sacrifice on our behalf (Romans 5:17). It’s by that righteous way of living that we can become vessels for God’s grace to flow on the earth.

How is God inviting you to be obedient in this season? What step could you take today to be faithful to what He has said?

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