These are the descendants of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation; Noah walked with God.

Genesis 6:9

Choosing between slips of paper that read good or bad.

In yesterday’s Life for Leaders devotion, we began to consider the question: What does God look for in a leader? A succinct answer can be found in Genesis 6:9, in a description of Noah, to whom God will assign one of the most important leadership tasks in all of human history. According to this verse, the reason that Noah “found favor in the sight of the LORD,” and therefore was chosen to save the creatures of the earth, was this: “Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation; Noah walked with God.”

Today, I want to focus on what it means that Noah was a “righteous man.” This claim in Genesis 6:9 is made even stronger in 7:1, where the Lord tells Noah, “you alone are righteous before me in this generation.” The word “righteous” translates word tzaddiq, the dictionary definition of which is “just, righteous.” The adjective tzaddiq can also function as a noun meaning “righteous person, just person.” The tzaddiq does what is right according to God’s standards. Indeed, God can also be described as tzaddiq (see Psalm 145:17). Throughout the Old Testament, tzaddiq has a strong relational and communal sense. The tzaddiq has right relationships with others in all contexts, including work, family, and community life.

In her fine book, Kingdom Calling: Vocational Steward for the Common Good, Amy Sherman devotes a whole chapter to the meaning of tzaddiq in Scripture. She identifies three dimensions of life that could be described as tzaddiq or “righteous, just.” First, there is the vertical dimension of righteousness that “involves our reverent worship of and humble dependence on God.” Second, there is an inward dimension that is “captured by the phrase ‘purity in heart.’” Third, there is a social dimension of righteousness that involves “our interactions with our neighbors near and far.” For a much more detailed discussion of what tzaddiq means and how this notion might guide our lives, including our work, I commend Kingdom Calling to you.

So, then, what does God look for in a leader? First, God seeks one who is tzaddiq, whose living is characterized by doing what is right and engaging in right relationships with others. The tzaddiq don’t just go through the motions, however. Those who are righteous live worshipfully in all they do as their hearts are formed in a righteous and gracious God.

QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:

How does this discussion of the meaning of tzaddiq strike you? Does anything in Amy Sherman’s explanation of tzaddiq stir up thoughts or feelings in you?

Would anyone say that you are tzaddiq? Would your colleagues? Your family members? Your friends?

In which of the three dimensions of tzaddiq are you strongest? Where are you most in need of growth?

PRAYER:

Gracious God, first, we praise you today because you’re righteous and just. You are, indeed, perfectly tzaddiq. You treat us rightly and model for us how we are to live as righteous people.

How thankful we are that our being righteous is not a prerequisite for relationship with you. Indeed, by grace through Christ you call us into a right relationship with you. You grant us your righteousness and in so doing invite us to live as a righteous people. Help us, Lord, to do so in all dimensions of life, in vertical, inward, and outward dimensions. Teach us, righteous God, to “do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly” with you (Micah 6:8). Amen.

 

This post originally published on August 4, 2015.

 

Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online commentaryGod Calls Noah and Creates a New World (Genesis 6:9-8:19)

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