Devotional & Reflection

Week 1, Jan 2003

Deu 6:3 & Heb 11:13 - Prosperity Assured?
By Sio Sk, Civil Servant and Servant of God

Deu 6:3 “Hear, O Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the Lord, the God of your fathers, promised you.”

Heb 11:13 “All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance.”

A friend shared with me his belief that there is a purpose for prosperity, that God delights in the prosperity of His children. God blessed Christians, not just for ourselves but for the world to see so that God would be glorified. In his view, in the OT, it was already God's plan that His people should be prosperous. That was why He led them to the land flowing with milk and honey. Further, God had given the Israelites a set of commandments and statutes that would lead to a great social order and when followed would ensure that they walk in prosperity so that they would be the envy of the nations. He quoted Deuteronomy which stated that it is God who gives us the “ability to produce wealth”. (Deut 4:5-8, 8:6-18)

Indeed, God had promised many blessings to the Israelites in the days of old. In the OT, the blessings of God were in material terms (abundance of food, productive wombs, long life). They were conditional upon the Israelites' obedience to God. While Moses exhorted the Israelites to love the Lord, to walk in all His ways and to hold fast to Him, he also warned of the dire consequences of turning away from God. In the OT, blessings came with obedience and curses with disobedience (Deut 28). Scripture has ample records of the disaster and destruction that fell quickly upon the Israelites whenever they forgot the Lord and followed other gods.

In the NT, Jesus brought a different perspective to material success and wealth. Reward and retribution may no longer come in our earthly lives. In 2 Cor 11:23- 33, we see the Apostle Paul suffering hardships, imprisonment, floggings, danger, hunger, thirst, cold, sleeplessness. In Heb 11: 35-38, we read of the early Christians being tortured, jeered, flogged, stoned, sawed in two, executed, persecuted and mistreated, going about in sheepskins, living in caves and holes in the ground. "These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised." (Heb 11:39)

What, then, is the hope and promise that we have, if we may not receive material success or wealth in this life? Scripture assures us that God had planned something better for us (Heb 11:40). We await the blessed hope of the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, we look to the New Jerusalem where God Himself will be with us and live with us, where there will no more death or mourning or crying or pain.

Meanwhile, what do we do? I think it's not so much what we do, but the motivation behind what we do, our response to whatever comes along. Whatever we do, we do for the glory of God, whether in our personal and family life, in our pursuit of education and career, in our dealings with people, in good times or bad. "So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God" (1 Cor 10:31) And our response when things don't go well or smoothly? We trust in the Lord, that He will see us through everything.

Finally, let me share a hymn inspired by the verses from Habakkuk 3:17-18:

"Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines, the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet will I rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation."

William Cowper wrote:

Sometimes a light surprises the Christian while he sings;
It is the Lord, Who rises with healing in His wings:
When comforts are declining, He grants the soul again
A season of clear shining, to cheer it after rain.

In holy contemplation we sweetly then pursue
The theme of God's salvation, and find it ever new.
Set free from present sorrow, we cheerfully can say,
Let the unknown tomorrow bring with it what it may.

It can bring with it nothing but He will bear us through;
Who gives the lilies clothing will clothe His people, too;
Beneath the spreading heavens, no creature but is fed;
And He Who feeds the sparrows will give His children bread.

Though vine nor fig tree neither their wonted fruit should bear,
Though all the field should wither, nor flocks nor herds be there;
Yet God the same abiding, His praise shall tune my voice,
For while in Him confiding, I cannot but rejoice.

My friend put my mind to rest, after reading what I wrote, with this comment: “When prosperity is absent, we can still hold on to love, hope and faith, which the Lord also offers to us.” Amen.

1. Think about God’s blessings or lack of blessings in your life.
2. How do you reconcile blessings with the way of the Cross, the way of redemption through Christ’s suffering?

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