Today’s Reading: Job 25-29
Today’s Reflection: Job 25:4
How then can man be in the right before God? How can he who is born of woman be pure?
As Job pleaded his innocence and demanded to know the cause of his troubles, his three friends argued that he would not be suffering if he were innocent (Job 22:5), saying God protected the good and punished the wicked (Job 20). After Job easily refuted this argument, pointing out that many wicked people do not suffer and actually prosper (Job 21:7-16), his friends took a different approach, suggesting that no man can truly be righteous in God’s eyes. By doing so, Job’s friends proved again that for all of their religious knowledge, they lacked understanding of another fundamental principle of how God relates to man.
So can a man be righteous before God? What does the Bible say?
1 Samuel 26:23(a) – The LORD rewards every man for his righteousness and his faithfulness,
Isaiah 26:2 – Open the gates, that the righteous nation that keeps faith may enter in.
Habakkuk 2:4(b) – the righteous shall live by his faith.
Clearly there are men and women in the Bible who are counted as righteous by God, but how is this righteousness judged or attained? Well, Ezekiel 18:9 says that the man who “walks in my statutes, and keeps my rules by acting faithfully—he is righteous; he shall surely live, declares the Lord GOD.” This points to keeping statutes and rules, but makes clear the accurate observance of God’s law is rooted in acting faithfully. So our righteousness comes from our faith in God.
If this seems too simple for you, it may be that you have an incorrect understanding of what faith is. Faith is not knowledge, in fact faith requires that you cannot possibly know everything about what you have faith in (Hebrews 11:1). Faith is not merely belief, for even the fallen angels believe in God and His Word (James 2:19). Faith is acting on belief, acting as though everything God says is true, even when it appears to be impossible. People who put their beliefs to the test demonstrate their faith, and it is these people who God declares righteous.
Romans 4:20-22 – 20) No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 21) fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. 22) That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.”
Romans chapter 4 does a great job of explaining righteousness by faith, using the example of Abraham. God established His covenant with Israel through Abraham and the seal of this covenant was circumcision of his male descendants.
Romans 4:9-11 – 9) Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? We say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness. 10) How then was it counted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised. 11) He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well.
What becomes clear reading this chapter (and I highly recommend you read all of it) is that the act of circumcision was just a symbol representing the faith of Abraham and his children. The action, the symbol, wasn’t the point. The action and the symbol pointed to what was supposed to be the point: their faith. This is what Job’s friends, and all of those caught up in a legalistic view of religious belief and practice, miss. They focus on the actions that are supposed to mystically invoke God’s favour, and miss the fact that God desires a relationship with people who have faith in Him, who trust Him with everything at all times. These are the ones God calls righteous.