Job and the Question of Righteousness

In the song lyrics section titled His Story, Michael Card describes Job as “a man truly righteous” with “no pious facade.” Since Romans 3:23 says “all have sinned,” what could the wisdom teachers have meant by designating Job as a righteous man?

 

In response to the question above as it relates to Romans 3.23 and “all have sinned,” in correlation with the righteousness that was proclaimed of Job, the following could be stated. First, the issue of imputation of righteousness is not a New Testament concept. Instead, the origin and heart of this teaching comes via the Old Testament Scriptures and is attested to in the wisdom literature. For example, Psalm 32 verses 1-2 speak to the issue of imputation where the text reads, “Happy is he whose transgression is taken away, whose sin is covered. 2 Happy is a person to whom Yahweh does not impute iniquity and in whose spirit there is not deceit.”[1]

It would serve the purpose of this study well to briefly evaluate four words found in the Psalm 32 text, namely, “blessed/happy,” “forgiven,” “covered” and “counts.” First, David tells us in the Psalm that “Blessed” or “Happy is the man” as the text of verse 1 relays to the reader. It’s interesting to note that this blessing is not a vertical blessing, as would come from YHWH to man,[2] but instead, this is an āšar blessing which is horizontal in nature. To be envied or desired is the man, verse 1 of Psalm 32 teaches the reader. But why, one may ask? The remainder of the rest of the verse fills in this question: (1) because his transgression is taken away or forgiven and (2) because his sin is “covered.” To be forgiven of a debt means that it is no longer charged against ones account and to be covered, in this context, means that the debt is no longer in view (note the Hebrew parallelism here). This “forgiveness” and “covering” of sin is directly related to verse 2 of the text, which states that this “blessed” person does not have their sin or iniquity “imputed” (חָשַׁב) to them. Meaning, the individual in question does not have their sin “reckoned” or “counted” against them, hence, their sins are “forgiven” and “covered.”

This leads us to Romans 4, which is simply a continuation of Romans 3.23. In Romans 4, Paul utilizes Psalm 32 in his teaching on the imputed righteousness of Christ. In verse 1-4, the apostle begins a discussion regarding Abraham’s justification by faith and he contrasts this with the works of the law. In short, Abraham’s faith was a gracious gift and he was in no way justified by his works, because that would be a wage earned which allowed him to boast. Instead, to the one with faith, his righteous status is “imputed” or “counted” to him as righteousness. The word “imputed” in the text, λογίζεται, means “to put into one’s account, to charge one’s account, to regard as an account.”[3] Meaning, it is only by the empty hand of faith that one has righteousness “imputed” to them and conversely, he or she does not have their sin “imputed” to them, because that sin is “covered.” This is noted by Paul’s use of Ps 32.1-2 in verses 7-8 of his text, where the exact principles previously spoken about by David are utilized by Paul to reinforce his teaching. Interestingly, the LXX utilizes a form of the term “impute” in verse 2 of Ps 32, λογίζομαι, which reinforces both Paul’s teaching and the overall argument of this post, namely, that one could be called and counted as “righteous” regardless of their sinfulness.

In short, the issue at play in Romans, the Psalms and in Job, or throughout the entirety of the different eras of redemptive history is not the question as to whether one has sinned. Rather, the issue is, who has had their sins covered and in this respect, who has had righteousness imputed to them by faith. Hence, Job, by faith, had righteousness “imputed” to him (Job 19.25, c.f. Habk 2.4) and could be seen in this light because of his faith which justified him.

So now, I pose the question to you, the reader. Are you the blessed man or woman of Romans 4? Are your sins “forgiven,” “covered” and not “counted/imputed” against you, because you have had the righteousness of Christ “imputed/reckoned/counted” to your account by extending the empty hand of faith? I pray that this is the case, and please note Paul’s use of Abraham as an example of faith in Romans 4, because he (Abraham) did not consider his works as a tool of justification. Instead, “Abraham believed God and it was counted ( λογίζομαι >  logizomai > imputed) to him as righteousness” (Rom 4.3).

[1] W. Hall Harris III et al., eds., The Lexham English Bible, (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012), Ps 32:1–2.

[2] “There are two verbs in Hebrew meaning “to bless.” One is bārak and the other ʾāšar. Can any differences between them be tabulated? For one thing bārak is used by God when he “blesses” somebody. But there is no instance where ʾāšar is ever on God’s lips. When one “blesses” God the verb is bārak, never ʾāšar.” Victor P. Hamilton, “183 אָשַׁר,” ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999), 80.

[3] Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains, (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), 582.


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