The Hebrew has a short verb, no longer than our verb “go,” that can be translated either as come or go. In fact in Genesis 7:1 it is translated as come, for there we read, “And the Lord said unto Noah, Come thou and all thy house into the ark; for thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation.” Then in verse 7 it is translated as go, for we read, “And Noah went in, and his sons, and his wife, and his son’s wives with him into the ark, because of the waters of the flood.”
There is, however, quite a different point of view from the “go” expressed in the “come.” To come always suggests motion toward an individual or object. “Go” makes one think of departure from a person or object. And we ought to appreciate the translator’s choice here in Genesis 7:1. God calls Noah to come into the ark, and He does not order him to go into the ark. God calls Noah to approach Himself, for He has first come into that ark, sanctified it, and established it as the place where for one year and ten days He would dwell with Noah and his family, and as the place from whence He would dispense His mercy and grace. In that sense the ark served in the same capacity that the tabernacle and temple served in later years. This ark was also God’s house, a forerunner of the tabernacle and temple, a picture of things to come. Thus the words, “Come thou . . . into the ark” are prophetic of the words of Jesus in Matthew 25:21, “. . . enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.”
The phrase, “Come thou,” then, is not merely a command, an order given to Noah (and God’s commands to His people are never mere commands, but directives of love) but it is also a testimony to Noah that he has been given the right to enter into that sacred court where God has chosen to reveal Himself as our covenant God. Noah had no such right. The fact that he built the ark did not give him such a right. The Roman soldiers nailed Jesus to the cross on which He blotted out the sin of the world, but this did not give them the right to that pardon. And even though Noah built that ark in humble submission to God and by faith, that still did not give him the right to come into the place of God’s blessing. Noah did not enter either, until, in the words of Genesis 7:1, God, in effect, said, “Noah, you may now come into MY ark.” After all is said and done, it is God’s ark, not Noah’s.
Thus it always is, for salvation also includes the right to be saved. We need to be saved from our lack of right to be saved. This is the first prerequisite—and then one which only God can and does fulfill—of our salvation. Never must we forget that before man lost all the joy and glory and bliss of paradise, he lost his right to remain there. And did God not drive him away and place angels with a flaming sword to testify in no uncertain terms that man had no right anymore to come and live where God communes in love with man? And does not Revelation 22:14 exactly teach that we must receive the right again, when John writes, “Blessed are they that do His commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city?” The right must be given us. We do not have it. We cannot buy it, and have not even the right to buy it, if it were for sale.
What folly, really, to tell every man you meet that God loves him, and that he may be saved. How contrary to the word of God from Genesis 3 onward to preach to all who hear as though they have a right to have salvation “offered” to them, and as though one may extend an “invitation” to come and be saved to all the descendants of Adam. According to Romans 5:12-19 all men have, by the offense of one, namely, Adam, come under condemnation. By one man’s disobedience many, in fact all men, were made sinners. By one man sin entered the world, and death by sin. And to say that all men have the right to be given a “chance to be saved” is to deny that condemnation, to deny that death came upon all men, and then spiritual death as well as physical, It is to deny that all men have become sinners. For sinners have only one right: to go to hell! Sinners have the right only to death and have forfeited every right to life and salvation. The condemned criminal may receive a pardon from the governor, but he has actually no right to ask for it. He who killed has no right to ask that his own life be spared. Much less with God does the rebel have a right to be given a “chance” to escape the wages of sin.
Notice, then, that God calls Noah to come into His ark and into His covenant fellowship, because He has seen Noah to be righteous before Himself in this generation. The righteous God will not give the right to enter His house and kingdom to an unrighteous person. The narrow way and the strait gate into the kingdom is righteousness.
Let it also be noted that Moses speaks here of Noah being righteous before God. That a man appears righteous before other men means little. We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, not of men. And though all men judge us to be righteous and God judges us to be unrighteous, we still go to hell; and instead of hearing God say “Come dwell with Me in heavenly glory,” we will hear Him say, “Go away from Me into everlasting perdition.” Men may laud us and our works to the sky as “civic righteousness.” We may be praised of men and still be damned of God. The all-important question here is not what men say and think of us. Instead it is whether God calls our works righteousness. And that means not simply that they conform outwardly to the law, nor simply that men are benefited either materially or even spiritually by these deeds, but whether they were performed by a love toward God that wants His name to be glorified.
That God saw to be in Noah’s deeds. And this God saw to be in Noah because He put it there Himself. God never finds anything out. That would mean that for a time He did not know it. It would also mean that there is from time to time an increase in the knowledge of God. It would mean that for a moment at least He was ignorant, lacked certain knowledge. And the man that talks that way is himself ignorant of God’s unchangeable, infinite glory. No, God saw in the works of Noah the righteousness which He gave Noah to exercise, and which eternally He decreed to manifest through Noah’s deeds. Do we not read in Ephesians 2:10we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus UNTO good works, which God hath before ordained (prepared, or made ready is a better translation) that we should walk in them?
Noah was a sinner. Noah had no right to be changed into a saint. He, too, became a sinner in Adam. On him also condemnation fell. Death passed also upon him, so that as a spiritually dead man he could not do anything that God would call righteous. But the righteousness of Christ was imputed to him because he was chosen in Christ. And because he was created in Christ Jesus as God’s workmanship—not his own—unto good works, the life of Christ was given him to enable him to do the works of righteousness. For Christ’s sake Noah had been given the right to become righteous, and being born again as the fruit of that right, he did walk in righteousness. Redemption by the cross and regeneration by the Spirit explain that Noah was righteous in this generation.
The text does not state that only Noah was righteous in this generation. And yet that is certainly the idea. Only Noah and his family did God see to be righteous in Christ in the days wherein Noah was building the ark and preaching righteousness. However, the expression “this generation” means more than the men of Noah’s age. It does mean that. But it also means that in the line of fallen Adam and his descendants God has seen Noah to be righteous. The distinction, then, is not simply between Noah and those born from fifteen years before or after the year that he was born. Then Moses would have written “in your generation.” But the distinction is between Noah and the fallen human race, the generation of fallen men. At the time of the flood God saw Noah to be righteous, although the whole generation (the whole circle we may also translate) from Adam onward had fallen into sin and unrighteousness. This does not rule out righteous Adam, Abel, Seth and Methuselah, but it declares that although man fell from his righteousness, and the corrupt stock brought forth nothing but a corrupt offspring, here by God’s grace is a man that is righteous in Christ. God sees that, and therefore He calls him to come and enjoy the blessings of His covenant.
That gives us comfort today.
We are still in that corrupt generation whose seed was planted in paradise in the fall of man. God created man good and planted a good seed from which a good tree would have grown. But that seed died spiritually, and Satan planted a corrupt seed which thrives and produced, a vigorous, productive plant that brings forth its fruit in rich abundance, a very prolific plant that fills the earth. The particular generation to which we belong—and without a doubt our readers belong to different generations of grandparents, parents and young adult children of these—is certainly unrighteous. It always is and always has been, since the fall of man. No righteous generation has sprung up since that day that man ate of the forbidden fruit. Well could John the Baptist call them a “generation of vipers” in Luke 3:7. For spiritually they are the offspring of the Viper himself, Satan, the evil one.
What hope is there for us that God will see us as righteous in this generation? Is there really any hope? Indeed, for Noah had nothing that we do not have. That is the beauty of the Word of God when we read it correctly. Noah had no righteousness in himself. He, as we pointed out, belonged to that corrupt generation that came into being the moment man sinned. We who are branches on that same tree, and he who was an earlier branch upon it, have the same common root, namely, fallen, corrupt Adam. God therefore cannot see righteousness in Noah, because God Himself is a righteous Judge. And He can see it in Noah only as He sees Noah a branch in Christ, the Righteous Vine. And that is also our hope. Engrafted into Christ both Noah and we are seen to be righteous.
And in the moment of the threat of imminent destruction of the whole world by fire, we have the same peace and assurance that Noah had. We shall be safe, and we are safe. When the fire falls, we will have been called into the ark of God’s love. And through His Word as applied by His Spirit God calls to us every day, and particularly in the preaching, “Come thou out of the destruction and condemnation of the world into My covenant fellowship, and live with Me in glory.”
How true it is that there is no condemnation to those that are in Christ Jesus. Noah was, and he escaped the punishment the world suffered. We are also in Him by God’s grace and will escape the judgment fire.