"... Noah was a righteous man, who was perfect in his generation and well-pleasing to God." (Genesis 6:9)
Continuing on with the Story of Noah, this verse raised many questions. In a previous article we talked about The Righteousness of Noah. In describing his righteousness, the above verse adds "in his generation". Why did the bible need to say "perfect in his generation"? Does this mean that perfection is relative? Is perfection in Noah's generation different than todays?
Certainly not! Perfection is from God, and perfection is God. Our Lord Jesus Christ in His sermon on the Mount teaches us saying "Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect." (Matthew 5:48). Also, from St. Paul we know that "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever." (Hebrews 13:8). If God is Perfect, and we know that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, then it must be the case that perfection is the same as well. So now the question still remains, why did the verse add "perfect in his generation". Also why did the verse need to add "well-pleasing to God" since it already said that he was a righteous and perfect man?
The verse starts by saying that "Noah was a righteous man", then it goes on to explain this righteousness in two parts: The first being "Perfect in his generation", and the second is "well-pleasing to God". This doesn't mean that Noah was perfect in comparison to his generation, but it's saying that in the eyes of his generation he was a perfect man. Not only in the eyes of his generation, but in God's eyes as well. This reminds us of Zacharias the priest and his wife Elizabeth, where the bible attests to them saying that "...they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless" (Luke 1:6). They were also blameless before men, and righteous before God. This is perhaps why the verse in question adds "well-pleasing to God" to say that Noah was perfect before God and men. Another person who was described the same way is our Lord Jesus Christ Himself the source of perfection. "And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men." (Luke 2:52)
So now the next question that arises from this verse is "How?" How did Noah reach this perfection? Note that Noah was before Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He was even before Moses and the law itself. How did he reach perfection without the law since he was before the law?
The fact is that the law doesn't show perfection, it shows transgression. St. Paul says "What purpose then does the law serve? It was added because of transgressions..." (Galatians 3:19) The law shows what's wrong. However, doing what's right is by faith. Just like it was said that "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness" (Galatians 3:6) and Abraham was also before the law. It is only with faith that we can be well pleasing to God, for "without faith it is impossible to please Him" (Hebrews 11:6). The law was only a tutor as St. Paul says in Galatians 3, until the new law of Jesus Christ is established, which is faith, hope and love. Faith in Jesus Christ gives us the hope that if we walk in love we will be pleasing to God.
Lastly, another question that comes up is the following: Why did the verse mention that Noah was righteous before God and men? It is obvious why a Godly person should be righteous before God, but why is it important for a person to also be righteous before men? Isn't one's righteousness for God alone since He's the only Just Judge?
The answer to the above question is simply this: For the glory of God's name. This is why our Lord also teaches us in His sermon on the mount "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven." (Matthew 5:16) In our pursuit of perfection, it's never about us. It's always about God and God only. Every word we say and every action we take is to glorify God. This is also why in the Lord's prayer we say "Hallowed be Your name" meaning let Your name be Holy in our lives.
Thus "Noah was a righteous man" through his faith in God as we continue to see throughout Noah's story. He was perfect before God and men. "... Noah was a righteous man, who was perfect in his generation and well-pleasing to God." (Genesis 6:9)
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