Thursday, February 2, 2006

Diligence and Blessing

He shall be like a tree
Plant by the rivers of water,
That brings forth its fruit in is season,
Whose leaf also shall not wither;
And whatever he does shall prosper.
(Psalm 1:3)
This, of course, is speaking of the one who does not walk in the counsel of the ungodly, stand in the path of sinners, or sit in the seat of the mocker, but who delights in the instruction of the LORD and continually meditates on it. Whatever he does shall prosper.

In Deuteronomy 28, describing the blessings of keeping covenant with Yahweh, God puts it this way:
Now it shall come to pass, if you diligently obey the voice of the LORD your God, to observe carefully all His commandments which I command you today … The LORD will command the blessing on you in your storehouses and in all to which you set your hand, and He will bless you in the land which the LORD your God is giving you. (Deuteronomy 28:1, 8)
This is a wonderful promise of prosperity. It belongs to Christians under the New Covenant as much as it belonged to Israel under the Old, for the New Covenant is called a better covenant, based upon better promises (Hebrews 8:6). It will not grant less than the Old Covenant, but more.

But these wonderful covenant promises are not all necessarily automatic, they must be appropriated. All Christians have these promises from God, but not all have laid claim to them and experienced the manifestation in their lives.

How do we lay hold of these promises? The answer, of course, is by faith. Faith is believing the promises of God. But it is not enough simply to believe, we must also speak and act in accordance with that faith and those promises. For it is the nature of faith to act. That is why James says that “faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2:17). Paul said that faith works, or expresses itself through love.

Those who walk in the counsel of the ungodly, stand in the path of sinners and sit in the seat of the scornful are not the crowd who are going to be diligent in the things that bring true prosperity. They may connive and cheat and see some short-term gains, but these will quickly evaporate. And they certainly do not exercise faith working through love.

So the promise of God is that there is prosperity for everyone who delights in His Word and obeys His commands. He will command the blessing on all to which you set your hand. But notice, in the following verses, that diligence is part of His instruction to us.
He who has a slack hand becomes poor,
But the hand of the diligent makes rich. (Proverbs 10:4)

The hand of the diligent will rule,
But the lazy man will be put to forced labor. (Proverbs 12:24)

The lazy man does not roast what he took in hunting,
But diligence is man’s precious possession. (Proverbs 12:27)

The soul of a lazy man desires, and has nothing;
But the soul of the diligent shall be made rich. (Proverbs 13:4)

The plans of the diligent lead surely to plenty,
But those of everyone who is hasty, surely to poverty. (Proverbs 21:5)

Do you see a man who excels in his work?
He will stand before kings;
He will not stand before unknown men. (Proverbs 22:29)

Be diligent to know the state of your flocks,
And attend to your herds;
For riches are not forever,
Nor does a crown endure to all generations. (Proverbs 27:23-24)

Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might. (Ecclesiastes 9:10)
The Hebrew word translated as “diligent” generally means to be incisive or sharp. We might say “on the ball.” It is active, it is timely, it is decisive. It is quick to act, but not without due consideration, to take care of the things that ought to be taken care of. Another word means to be skillful, to excel. Such excellence requires that one be ready and steady in their effort. The word for “diligent” in Proverbs 27:23 is actually the word for “know” used twice, reflecting a Hebrew idiom for emphatic action. The idea in this verse is to do all you can to keep up with what’s going on in your affairs, or your prosperity can easily slip away.

The promise of God does not mean that we can let diligence go by the wayside. On the other hand, we should not put our trust in diligence. Rather, the promise of God is the assurance that, if we will be diligent we will be successful and prosperous in whatever we do. So have faith in the promise and in faith bring forth diligence.