Showing posts with label Divine Portraits of Prosperity. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Divine Portraits of Prosperity. Show all posts

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Divine Portrait of Prosperity: Psalm 1

It is the first of the month and, as is my habit, I am praying through the first five psalms — one hundred and fifty psalms divided by thirty days in a month equals fives psalms a day. By the end of this month I will have gone through the book of Psalms, ready to begin again on the first of next month. I have been doing this for twenty years or so and it is been a very profitable practice.
But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
He shall be like a tree
Planted by the rivers of water,
That brings forth its fruit in its season,
Whose leaf also shall not wither;
And whatever he does shall prosper.
(Psalm 1:2-3)
Here is a divine portrait of prosperity, and how it comes. Picture a tree, well irrigated and well established, healthy and strong. It is always bringing forth fruit. When the harvest comes, it offers an abundance that bless many. Afterwards, it does not dry out or wither, but sets about to produce more. Picture a man or woman who is like that tree — whatever he or she does goes well and finds success. That is divine prosperity.

How does one get to that place? First, by avoiding those things that lead in the opposite direction — the counsel of those who have no regard for God, the path of those who do not walk in His ways, those who mock the good and prefer evil (v. 1). The fruit of their lives will be bitter and toxic, blown away like in the wind like chaff (v. 5).

It is not enough, however, to avoid evil things. They must be replaced with the good. The secret to that is found in verse 2: Delighting in the law of the Lord and constantly meditating in it. The Hebrew word for “law,” torah, actually means “instruction.” God has given us instructions in His Word that lead to prosperity in all things. Our part is to delight in it and meditate on it continually. To dig into it with relish and chew on it for all its worth. To pursue it diligently for the purpose of doing it.
This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. (Joshua 1:8)
Now, notice what it does not say. It does not say that God will make our way prosperous for us. It says that we will make our way prosperous. God will show us the way, but we must be diligent to walk in it. It is in meditating that we take hold of God’s wise direction, but it is in doing it that we make our way prosperous, for the instruction of the Lord leads us into good success.

God has provided us the way to be firmly established and fruitful, to enjoy divine prosperity and success in every area of life. It is living in and living by the instruction of the Lord.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Divine Portrait of Prosperity: Psalm 112

Blessed is the man who fears the LORD,
Who delights greatly in His commandments.
(Psalm 112:1)
“Blessed” speaks of great happiness and bliss. What is the cause of such an exceedingly happy condition? The fear of the Lord, and delighting in His commandments.

The fear of the Lord speaks of living in supreme awe of Him. It is loving what He loves and hating what He hates. It is recognizing that His displeasure is greatly to be avoided but His favor is greatly to be desired. To delight in something is to have a desire for it, to take pleasure in it. Here, it is modified by the word “greatly,” which speaks of exceeding abundance, completeness, and diligence. This delight, desire and pleasure is wholehearted and intense. When we start to understand how awesome God is, how great His love and how marvelous His favor, we begin to take intense pleasure in His ways — and that leads to bliss, as this psalm describes.

What does the fear of the Lord look like in the everyday life of a person who has it?
He is gracious, and full of compassion, and righteous.
A good man deals graciously and lends;
He will guide his affairs with discretion. (vv. 4-5)

His heart is steadfast, trusting in the LORD. (v. 7)

He has dispersed abroad,
He has given to the poor. (v. 9)
  • He has received grace and favor from the Lord, so he shows grace and favor to others.
  • He has experienced compassion and mercy from God, so he knows how to extend compassion and mercy to others.
  • He is not stingy with what is his, but generously lends to others.
  • He shows good judgment in all his dealings. The HCSB has, “conducts his business fairly.” He makes sound business decisions that are equitable and promote what is good.
  • His trust is in the Lord and he lets that settle all the worries and concerns of his heart.
  • He not only lends freely, He gives generously to the poor. The Hebrew for “disperse” literally means to scatter. He understands the paradox of Proverbs 11:24, “There is one who scatters, yet increases more; and there is one who withholds more than is right, but it leads to poverty.”
That’s a short sketch of how the fear of the Lord gets lived out. Now, let’s take a brief look at what the prosperity of such a person looks like.
  • “His descendants will be mighty on earth; the generation of the upright will be blessed’ (v. 2). His descendants will receive a spiritual inheritance that, if they will follow it, will lead them into a life of blessing, abundance and significance.
  • “Wealth and riches will be in his house, and his righteousness endures forever” (v. 3). Because he is making good decisions and doing what is right, which leads to prosperity, prosperity will fill his house. The results of living well will endure for the next generations. As Proverbs 13:22 says, “A good man leaves an inheritance for his children’s children.”
  • “Unto the upright there arises light in the darkness” (v. 4). This does not mean that he will never have to go through dark times (or poor economies), but that when he does, there will light to lead him through it to the other side. The surrounding darkness will not cause him to fear because he is focused on the light that comes from the Lord.
  • “Good will come to a man who lends generously” (v. 5, HCSB). Because he does what is good, goodness comes back to him. It is the principle of sowing and reaping. Jesus put it this way, “Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the measure that you use, it will be measured back to you” (Luke 6:38). This is not just about money, as some think, but about how we deal with each other in general: When we show goodness to others, it will come back around to us.
  • “Surely he will never be shaken; the righteous will be in everlasting remembrance” (v. 6). Living in awe of God brings him into a place of stability. There may be earthquakes, but when the dust clears, he will still be standing. He will have a testimony and the significance of his life will remain.
  • “He will not be afraid of evil tidings; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord” (v. 7). Bad news, failing economies, and financial disasters will not strike fear in him because his life and prosperity — his blessing — is founded upon God. His focus and trust are in the Lord.
  • “His heart is established; he will not be afraid until he sees his desire upon his enemies” (v. 8; the HCSB has, “In the end he will look in triumph on his foes”). He does not focus his heart on the adversarial circumstances that surround him, but on the Lord. He does not fear when leaders forecast gloom or threaten catastrophe. The peace of his heart is settled on God and nothing can disturb the calm state of his soul.
  • “His righteousness endures forever; his horn will be exalted with honor” (v. 9). His influence and honor will increase and the effect of living God’s way will continue to make him a blessing to others.
  • “The wicked will see it and be grieved; he will gnash his teeth and melt away; the desire of the wicked shall perish” (v. 10). The wicked are those who are at odds with God’s way of doing things. Great blessing will come to those who live in awe of Him and walk in His ways, but for the wicked there is only grief, despair and frustration of purpose. They will fade away, therefore do not let your heart be troubled by them.
The psalm writer gives us just some of what it means to live in awe and delight of God and to know His prosperity. Jesus puts it all very succinctly: “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).

The blessing of a divinely peaceful and prosperous life follows from living in awe of the Lord and walking in His ways.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Divine Portrait of Prosperity: Psalm 144

David sings of the prosperity of His people and asks God to deliver them from the hand of those who speak lying words and act falsely. It is a picture of national prosperity.
That our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth;
That our daughters may be as pillars,
Sculptured in palace style;
That our barns may be full,
Supplying all kinds of produce;
That our sheep may bring forth thousands
And ten thousands in our fields;
That our oxen may be well-laden;
That there be no breaking in or going out;
That there be no outcry in our streets.
Happy are the people who are in such a state;
Happy are the people whose God is the LORD!
(Psalm 144:12-15)
This echoes the blessing of Deuteronomy 28:1-14, the prosperity that follows a people who live in awe of the Divine, listen to His voice and walk in His wisdom. It is a covenant promise initially given to Israel, but God has broadened it to include all nations and peoples — He will not turn away anyone who comes to receive His grace. That is why Jesus came, to rescue, redeem, reconcile and restore what was lost. His reign brings peace, prosperity and protection to those who honor Him.

God desires to bless our country with peace, prosperity and protection, and He will do it if we will turn to Him.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Divine Portrait of Prosperity: Psalm 128

God gives us a number of wonderful portraits of prosperity. Here is what it looks like in Psalm 128:

Blessed is every one who fears the LORD,
Who walks in His ways.
When you eat the labor of your hands,
You shall be happy, and it shall be well with you.

Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine
In the very heart of your house,
Your children like olive plants
All around your table.

Behold, thus shall the man be blessed
Who fears the LORD.
The LORD bless you out of Zion,
And may you see the good of Jerusalem
All the days of your life.
Yes, may you see your children’s children.
Years ago, when I was going through the Psalms of Ascent, writing a song for each one (I call them the “Pilgrims Psalms”), I struggled with this one — it seemed too good to be true. It portrayed happiness and prosperity as something God has for all His people, for all who fear Him and walk in His ways. But that clashed with the theology I had learned, the religious mindset I had been discipled in up to that time.

Growing up in church and going through Bible college, I was taught that God wanted us to have joy but not necessarily happiness. “God would rather you be holy than happy,” other Christians would later tell me. As if we can only be one or the other, or that holiness and happiness are like matter and antimatter and would annihilate each other if they ever came into contact.

Then there was the question of prosperity. “God doesn’t have prosperity for everyone,” I was advised. “You can’t expect that things will always work out for you.” Life for the Christian is “blood, sweat and tears, and hard, hard work,” I remember someone saying. Oh, joy!

But here was the psalm writer speaking unabashedly about having prosperity, being fruitful, enjoying the produce of our work — and being extremely happy! The Hebrew word for “blessed” in the first verse literally exclaims, “How happy!” or “What happiness!” It is the kind of happiness that comes from everything going well in your life. That is hard for some people to accept, but it is what Psalm 128 describes. The Message puts it this way:
All you who fear GOD, how blessed you are!
How happily you walk on his smooth straight road!
You worked hard and deserve all you’ve got coming.
Enjoy the blessing! Revel in the goodness!  (vv. 1-2)
The Contemporary English Version reads, “Your fields will produce, and you will be happy and all will go well” (v. 2).

So I made the decision to leave behind all those old voices that were still ringing in my head and go with what the Word of God now set plainly before my face. I wrote the song according to the psalm. No apologies, no regrets. Oh, some have tried to talk me out of this expectation, often “spiritualizing” the life out of this and similar Scriptures. But they are too late — I’ve already seen it in the Word and have been experiencing it in increasing measure in my life.

I hope you do, too. Even, or especially, in these difficult times.

The favor God has for His people extends even to happiness and prosperity, for all who live in awe of Him and walk in His ways. Set your expectation on this.

Friday, April 18, 2008

A Deluge of Blessing

“Try Me now in this,” says the LORD of hosts, “If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it.” (Malachi 3:10)
“Windows of heaven” presents us with interesting imagery. The Hebrew word for “window,” arubah, speaks of openings such as lattices or sluices. “Heaven” speaks of that which is high and lofty. It can refer to the sky and the reaches of space, as well as the spiritual abode of God. We find this unusual phrase only a few times in Scripture.
  • In Genesis 7:11, the fountains of the deep were broken up and the windows of heaven were opened up to inundate the earth with rain and floodwaters during the Great Deluge.
  • In 2 Kings 7, Samaria was besieged and in dire famine, Elijah, the prophet of God, said that within twenty-four hours there would be a great abundance of food. An officer of the king doubted him, saying, “Look, if the LORD would make windows in heaven, could this thing be?” (v. 2). Elijah answered, “In fact, you shall see it with your eyes, but you shall not eat of it.” And so it happened.
  • In Malachi 3:10, the word of the LORD calls for the people to “bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house.” He challenges them to test Him and see “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it.”
“Windows of heaven” speaks of a flood, in the case of Malachi 3:10, a deluge of blessing. Notice that it is “poured out.” The Hebrew word means to make empty or empty out. This is no small thing. God promises to empty out all of heaven onto those who trust, test and obey Him in the area of tithing.

Now, tithing is no longer a requirement for Christians, who are not under the Law of Moses but under the Covenant of Grace in Jesus Christ. But God still does honor giving and pours out all the provision of heaven in a great flood on those who honor Him with their gifts. Writing to the believers at Corinth on the subject of giving of one’s resources, Paul teaches them, “He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully … And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:6, 8).

Notice the fullness of this abundance: ALL grace, ALWAYS having ALL sufficiency in ALL things, plus ABUNDANCE for EVERY good work. It is a flood of blessing, enough to bless not only us, but those around us.

God pours out all of heaven on our behalf, and we become receivers when we learn to become givers. It is a deluge of blessing.