God’s Approval of the Righteous
John H. Tennant, Edington
FROM THE TIMES OF THE TEN ANTEDILUVIAN PATRIARCHS there have been men and women whom God reckons to be righteous, and of whom He approves. Alongside the godly, there are the ungodly ones who remain in a settled state of disobedience, and whom God will judge. In his reasoning with his own nation, Peter says, 'Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know', Acts 2. 22-24. Their deeds were wicked in crucifying Jesus, but the crucifixion was according to divine counsel. That Man was approved of God; was raised from the dead by God; and was exalted by the right hand of God, vv. 24, 33. Hold fast to the faith of Jesus Christ, of whose kingdom the Scriptures speak! Jesus Christ our Lord was marked out to be the Son of God in power, by the resurrection of the dead, Rom. 1. 4. They closed their eyes to the evidence that God was working by Him. They closed their ears to His teaching, though the voice from heaven said, 'Hear Him', Mark 9. 7. They closed their hearts, and slighted Him, though He had graciously said, 'Come unto me, and I will give you rest', Matt. 11. 28. But because God so fully approved of His character, in that He loved righteousness and hated lawlessness, God anointed Him with the oil of gladness above His fellows, Heb. 1. 9. Abel the second child of the human race, had God's witness that he was righteous, Heb. 11.4. Jesus spoke of 'the blood of righteous Abel', Matt. 23. 35. Cain outwardly professed to be in communion with God in that he offered a sacrifice, but what he offered was already cursed. God's judgment is that Cain was of the wicked one, and his works evil. Both the offerer and offering were rejected. Both Abel and his offering were accepted, because his works were righteous, see Lev. 1. 4. Alongside the man of faith in Abel we see the man of the world in Cain. Abel offered by faith: Cain did not. Abel had a conscience of sin and acknowledged the effects of the fall: Cain did not. Abel recognized the need for the sacrificial death of another in his approach to God: Cain did not, 1 John 3. 12.
We are made nigh to God by the blood of Christ, Eph. 2. 13. We have boldness to enter the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which He has consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, His flesh, Heb. 10. 18-22. Sad it is that some would avoid any reference to blood, in word or song, because it is only the preciousness and the cleansing and atoning power of the blood of Jesus, which gives the believer a righteous access into the sanctuary, the presence of God. Enoch was the seventh from Adam and is commended for his long life of sanctity. He was a righteous man, and the traits of character which pleased God are therefore worthy of consideration. (1) He 'pleased God', Heb. 11. 5. The expression 'pleased God' is the LXX translation of 'walked with God', Gen. 5. 22. This godly man obviously allowed nothing to interrupt his close relationship with God. (2) He spoke the truth, as God revealed it to him. He was a trustworthy vessel to whom God committed enlightenment as to a future life, and a prophetic ministry as to God's future judgment on the ungodly. 'And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, to execute judgment upon all', Jude 14, 15. He lived for 365 years. God's judgments may be slow, but they are sure, and His righteous judgments form part of the preaching of the word of God. 'But now (God) commandeth all men every where to repent; because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained', Acts 17. 30, 31.
Noah was the last of the ten antediluvian patriarchs who also was reckoned to be a righteous man. The character of this godly man is therefore also instructive to every believer who would walk worthy of God's calling, Gen. 6. 9; Heb. 11. 7. He believed God. The nature of the judgment which God gave warning of was outside Noah's experience. Dew on the ground he was used to, but a deluge of water, torrential rain and flooding were 'things not seen as yet', Heb. 11. 7. But the significant feature of his faith is that he believed God. He had full confidence that God would keep His word, and had the power to do it. He was obedient. Such unquestioning obedience meets with God's approval. He attended to every detail of construction of the ark, and used only the materials which God commanded, Gen. 6. 22. The ark of the covenant and the tabernacle each had to be built according to divine pattern, Exod. 25. 33. Such detail of structure and materials is of spiritual significance to believers in the present church period. Paul refers to himself as a wise masterbuilder who laid the one and only foundation, which is Jesus Christ. But he warns others to 'take heed how he buildeth thereupon' ... every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, for it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is', 1 Cor. 3.10-13. He was faithful. Noah would be well informed of Enoch's prophesies of future judgment on the ungodly, Jude 14. He too was called upon to speak of impending judgment, and that of an extraordinary nature which his contemporaries found hard to believe. Some reckon that the length of time between the giving of the warning and the flood was 120 years. During all that time, God waited in longsuffering; His faithful servant preached righteousness; and the people paid no heed. How very testing to that patient godly man. By the Spirit it was Christ who preached to those very people who ignored Noah's warning, 1 Pet. 3. 19, 20; 2 Pet. 2. 5. The quality of Noah's character pleased God. The general condition was one of low moral standards, Matt. 24. 37-38; Luke 17. 26-27. But, in spite of those conditions, and the indifference to his preaching, Noah was commended by God as being perfect (without fault) in his generations, Gen. 6. 9. He did not conform to the ungodliness around him, but 'walked with God'. Well might the desire of our souls be, as we sense the day approaching: 'Oh for a closer walk with God'.
Abraham believed God and it was counted unto him for righteousness, Gen. 15. 6; Rom. 4. 3. In Mesopotamia his family links were idolatrous, but the God of glory called him to leave his country and kindred and begin a journey of faith to a promised land. Nothing is said of the journey, only that 'they went forth to go into the land of Canaan; and into the land of Canaan they came', Gen. 12. 1-5; Acts 7. 1-8; Heb. 11. 8-10. He obeyed, took the all important step of faith, and committed himself wholly to the Almighty God as his guide. He was a pilgrim and stranger in Canaan, owning nothing, and even having to purchase his own sepulchre, but he always had his altar and tent. He maintained close communion with God. What a wonderful commendation to be called by the Almighty God: 'Abraham my friend', Isa. 41. 8; 2 Chr. 20. 7; James 2. 23. Outwardly, Lot appeared like Abraham in that he remained in Canaan, but he had no altar. Like a worldly Christian he lost his pilgrim and stranger character, and settled down to a life of ease. Abraham continued in Canaan with his altar and tent, a pilgrim and stranger, but a worshipper who had the assurance from Jehovah that he would possess the land hereafter. His life of faith is an example to ourselves who are reminded that we are strangers and pilgrims, 1 Pet. 2. 11: that our commonwealth has its existence in the heavens, Phil. 3. 20: that here we have no continuing city, but we seek one to come, Heb. 13. 14. The outlook we have beyond this life is in line with the hope of the righteous of all generations of which Solomon writes: 'The hope of the righteous shall be gladness, but the expectation of the wicked shall perish', Provo 10.28. 'The wicked is driven away in his wickedness: but the righteous hath hope in his death', Provo 14. 32. What a comforting hope the death and resurrection of Christ gives to believers!
We have already thought of Enoch's vision. To the Jews Jesus said 'Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day; and he saw it, and was glad', John 8. 56. What a reassuring vision to one who left everything to follow a pathway of faith. Job and David both looked forward to seeing God, Job 19. 26; Psa. 17. 15. Isaiah spoke of the earth being full of the knowledge of the Lord, Isa. 11. 9. Jeremiah wrote of 'the voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the Bridegroom and the voice of the bride', Jer. 33. 11. Daniel saw the Son of Man coming with the clouds of heaven to the Ancient of Days, Dan. 7. 13. Those insights were of Christ's coming kingdom and glory. We now know the Person Himself, because Christ is our hope, and Christ in us is our hope of glory. 'When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory', Col. 3. 4. Again! What a wonderful prospect is theirs who believe in God, and in His son Jesus Christ, to appear with Him in glory.
As labourers together with God, we may well close our few thoughts on righteousness and God's approval, by taking heed to Paul's word, 'Study (strive diligently) to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth', 2 Tim. 2. 15-22. How very needful in our assemblies!