Patriarchs and Prosperity

What is the relationship between a healthy fellowship with God and prosperity?
Is there any Biblical evidence to support the view that prosperity is a sign of God’s blessing?
In order to answer these questions, we need to take a closer look at what the Old and New Testaments teach about God’s blessings in our lives.

Biblical prosperity is a vast subject.
None can explain all aspects of Biblical prosperity in a short video like this of 20 minutes.
So I do not claim to present an exhaustive study of the subject.
In this study we are leaning only about the attitude of the Patriarchs towards Prosperity.
How Jesus endorsed it is also explained in this video.

We may discuss other aspects of the Biblical prosperity in another video in future.

Before we progress, let me tell you few things:

·        Prosperity is not a sin; being not prosperous is also not a sin.
·        Prosperity in the Kingdom of God is different from prosperity in the world.
Kingdom values are invert to worldly values.
·        Prosperity is not material but a mindset.
Prosperity can be material blessings or spiritual blessings or both.
What is prosperity?

Since a short definition to Biblical Prosperity is not possible, let us go to an Old Testament incident.

This incident is recorded in 2 Samuel 24 and 1 Chronicles 21.
After many trials, David enjoyed a period of repose, but his leisure proved a temptation to him.
And Satan moved him to count his people.
God was angry at this move and decided to punish David and his people.
Thus Prophet Gad met David to announce the impending punishment from God.

God offered three choices of punishment for David to choose.

2 Samuel 24:13  So Gad came to David and told him; and he said to him, "Shall seven years of famine come to you in your land? Or shall you flee three months before your enemies, while they pursue you? Or shall there be three days' plague in your land? Now consider and see what answer I should take back to Him who sent me."  (NKJV)

God offered David an option to choose any of these three punishments.
In the Old Testament history God punished people with these punishments.
Not only Israelites but the gentiles also believed that God’s wrath fell on humans in these three ways.
So definitely these are not prosperity from God, but the reverse.
Or let us say that any of these three or more than one are adversity to man.

According to the above verse the three punishments are:

1.   Famine in life.
2.   Torture from enemies
3.   Infectious disease in the land
That means Prosperity is a life without all these adversities.
If you are protected from famine, enemies and infectious diseases you are living a prosperous life.
Whenever you are under the above three conditions you are not prosperous.

During the Old Testament period, prosperity was always considered as an outward sign of a healthy fellowship with God.
But God gave prosperity to man as a gift for the fellowship with Him.
God often withdrew prosperity from human’s life whenever this fellowship is broken.

Not only Jews but the gentile nations also believed in the physical prosperity.
But that never was a reason for God to withdraw it from His own people.
A broken fellowship is the only reason for God to withdraw prosperity from a person.

God often reminded His people that prosperity is a gift from God for a healthy relationship with Him.
This notion is expressed at more than one occasion.

Prosperity in Eden

The Kingdom of God is always a prosperous state.
Garden of Eden was the first manifestation of the Kingdom of God.
The best place to understand prosperity is the Garden of Eden.
It is the role model for a prosperous life.

Adam and Eve were prosperous in all the sense of the term.
Adam and Eve did not have a single penny with them and no material wealth in their home.
But everything surrounded them belonged to them.
They never fell sick.
They enjoyed a peaceful life in fellowship with God.

All these prosperity they enjoyed was a gift from God based on a loyal fellowship with Him
This is very important when we study the topic Biblical prosperity.
The loyalty was tested constantly by their obedience to God’s command not to eat a particular fruit.
And when they rebelled again God, the loyal fellowship was broken and they were thrown out of Eden.
And ever after that man is trying to go back to that state of prosperity.
Some tries to regain prosperity through maintaining a good fellowship with God and many other are trying to regain prosperity without any fellowship with God.

Let us remember that prosperity as gift from God was not totally withdrawn from Adam Eve even after this incident.
But prosperity offered to them became clearer as a gift from God.
They had to live in a cursed earth and had to work hard to eat and suffer for descendents.
Prosperity in the desert kingdom

Another manifestation of the Kingdom of God is seen in the desert where Israelites lived for 40 years.
Almost every Christian knows how Israelites got gold, silver and rich garments.
They had been living in exile and as slaves in Egypt, a rich and powerful empire of the time.
Just before they departed from slavery, Yahweh ordered them to ask for gold and silver from the Egyptians.
And they collected a lot of gold and silver.

Israelites started their journey and moved forward through the desert with all these material blessings.
And they never suffered poverty throughout their life in the desert.
Their prosperous life is described briefly but well in the following verses:

Psalm 105:37  He also brought them out with silver and gold, And there was none feeble among His tribes.   (NKJV)

Deuteronomy 29:5 And I have led you forty years in the wilderness. Your clothes have not worn out on you, and your sandals have not worn out on your feet.

This was the prosperity Israelites enjoyed in the desert Kingdom.
They were provided with food and water by God.
No sickness and no lack of materials they suffered.

But the important question is why God gave them all these prosperity?
This question and answer to this question is very important to have a clear understanding of Biblical prosperity.

All gold and silver they collected from the Egyptians had no value in the desert Kingdom.
There were no shops, no textiles no hotels and no banks in the desert.
Then what is the purpose behind God’s command to ask for gold and silver from the Egyptians?

One purpose was that they may live a prosperous life in the Promised Land.
And the second purpose was that they may willingly contribute to the construction of God’s Temple.

Exodus 35:22   They came, both men and women, as many as had a willing heart, and brought earrings and nose rings, rings and necklaces, all jewelry of gold, that is, every man who made an offering of gold to the LORD.   (NKJV)

So we may surmise that:
The desert Kingdom was a prosperous Kingdom
All their prosperity was for their livelihood and for the Temple of God.
Now let us see how the patriarchs lived.

Patriarchs and prosperity

The Biblical patriarchs are the men God used to establish the nation of Israel.
Patriarch was the name given to the head of a family or tribe in Old Testament times.
In common usage the title of patriarch is assigned especially to those whose life is recorded in Scripture previous to the time of Moses, as Adam, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
In the early history of the Hebrews we find the ancestor or father of a family retaining authority over his children and his children’s children so long as he lived.
By the end of a patriarch, the large family would have become a group of many smaller families.
But when patriarch died the families did not break off nor they form new communities.
Usually they remain united under another common head.

The eldest son was generally invested with this dignity of a Patriarch.
His authority was paternal.
He was honored as central point of connection and as the representative of the whole kindred.

All Biblical patriarchs lived in prosperity.
Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are three of the great Jewish Patriarchs
Among a line of men the most well known is Abraham, because from him all Israelites are descended.
And Abraham was a rich person.

The following are the words his servant Eliezer to Rebekah’s brother.

Genesis 24: 35  "The LORD has blessed my master greatly, and he has become great; and He has given him flocks and herds, silver and gold, male and female servants, and camels and donkeys.  (NKJV)
Isaac, Abraham’s son was not less prosperous.

Genesis 26:13, 14    
13   The man began to prosper, and continued prospering until he became very prosperous;
14   for he had possessions of flocks and possessions of herds and a great number of servants. So the Philistines envied him. (NKJV)

The following verse speaks about Jacob’s prosperity.

Genesis 36: 6-7
6     Then Esau took his wives, his sons, his daughters, and all the persons of his household, his cattle and all his animals, and all his goods which he had gained in the land of Canaan, and went to a country away from the presence of his brother Jacob.
 7    For their possessions were too great for them to dwell together, and the land where they were strangers could not support them because of their livestock.   (NKJV)

And we have no doubt that these men of God lived a holy life, in a healthy fellowship with God.
None of them went astray because of prosperity.

What is the secret behind the faithfulness of the Patriarchs to God even in the midst of prosperity?
The answer to this question is stated in Hebrews

Hebrews 11: 9, 10
9     By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise;
10   for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.  (NKJV)
Though the patriarchs had great wealth they had the revelation that this world is not their permanent home.
Whatever big mansions they may have, it is like a tent of a traveler.
The real home and city are heavenly, built by God.
So they looked beyond all these material prosperity to the heavenly city.
They lived on this earth eagerly waiting for the heavenly city of God.

In fact they knew the truth that prosperity is a gift from God to them with a heavenly purpose.
But in the Old Testament period people had the notion that prosperity is a sign of a healthy fellowship with God.
This notion is not bad, because it is often so; but it is not always.
But the belief that adversity is a sign of a bad relationship with God is wrong.
Here we need a correction.
And Jesus made this correction.
Widow’s offering

Jesus reinterpreted many rabbinic laws existed at the time.
An important thing Jesus taught is that the value system in the Kingdom of Heaven is totally inverted to the value system of this world.
Let us read about a correction Jesus made to the popular belief.

Mark 12:41- 44
41   Now Jesus sat opposite the treasury and saw how the people put money into the treasury. And many who were rich put in much.
42   Then one poor widow came and threw in two mites, which make a quadrans.
43   So He called His disciples to Himself and said to them, "Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury;
44   "for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood."   (NKJV)

Here, Jesus made a correction to the concept of prosperity.
Prosperity is not what we hoard but what we give towards the Kingdom of God.
Because, the Kingdom of God is our eternal city.

In other words, Jesus is asking to learn from the patriarchs a lesson about prosperity.
What the patriarchs did was fixing a priority in their life.
Kingdom of God for the patriarchs was priority no.1
Earthly life was priority no.2 or less.

Here let us read a famous sentence from Jesus.

Matthew 6:33   "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.  (NKJV)

This verse is about fixing the Kingdom of God as priority No.1.
And everything else will be added to us by God – we are not accumulating prosperity but God is adding prosperity to us.
It is a gift from God with a heavenly purpose.

Jesus explains this priority fixing in our life in two short parables also.

Matthew 13:44 - 46
44   "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
 45 "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls,
 46 "who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.  (NKJV)
Jesus is telling us that the Kingdom of God is more valuable than all our earthly wealth.
We must be ready to give up all earthly prosperity if needed in order to inherit the Kingdom of God.
It is Kingdom of God first and all.

The correction Jesus made to the concept of the Old Testament people is the change in attitude towards material prosperity.
Jesus was not introducing a new theology, but turning us back to the attitude of the patriarchs.
Jesus is trying to change our attitude towards material prosperity.

Jesus never and nowhere asked us to renounce prosperity we have received as a gift from God.
Jesus never meant that prosperity is a hindrance to the Kingdom of God.
But attitude towards wealth is important.
That means wealth is not the problem, but our attitude towards it is decisive.

Luke 18:18-27 records the true story of a rich young man who came to Jesus to justify himself.
Jesus asked him to sell everything he had and give to the poor so that he may inherit the Kingdom.
The young man was frustrated with the reply because his preference was different from that of Jesus’.
But this does not mean that no rich people will inherit the Kingdom of God.

The next chapter, Luke 19: 1-10 records the story of another rich man.
His name is Zacchaeus.
He was rich but a sinner and a social outcast.
Jesus stopped for him, talked to him, visited his house and Zacchaeus was miraculously saved.

What the rich young man failed to do was done by Zacchaeus.
The rich young man failed to rearrange his priorities where as Zacchaeus instantly rearranged his priority no.1 to the Kingdom of God.


Let me conclude this message.
Our Patriarchs were prosperous more than any one of us.
All of them lived throughout their life in a healthy fellowship with God.
Because, for them, the first priority in their life was the heavenly city which they hoped to inherit somewhere in the future.
So they lived in tents like sojourners and strangers in this world.

Jesus too taught us to set our first priority to the Kingdom of God.
Prosperity is not what we accumulate but what God adds to our life.
Prosperity is a gift from God with a heavenly purpose not a sign of a healthy fellowship with God.

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