Meditations in the life of Abraham : 16. Prosperity
Gen 13:1-2 So Abram went up from Egypt to the Negev, with his wife and everything he had, and Lot went with him. Abram had become very wealthy in livestock and in silver and gold.
This is the third indication that we have read of Abram’s growing prosperity. The first was back at Haran: “He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan.” (Gen 12:5) The second was in Egypt: “He treated Abram well for her sake, and Abram acquired sheep and cattle, male and female donkeys, menservants and maidservants, and camels.” (Gen 12:16) And we come to today’s verses which act as a summary of what has happened.
Previously we assumed that Abram had had cattle and sheep beforehand because they tend to be the currency of the wealthy in those days, but actually there was no actual mention of them until Egypt. So perhaps a more accurate picture (and we can’t be sure) of Abram’s change would be: leaving Ur as a traveling nomad, settles in Haran for a while and accumulates ‘possessions’ – moves on to Canaan – moves on to Egypt where he acquires sheep, cattle, donkeys, camels and more servants.
Now I don’t know if you have noticed something interesting in all of this. Twice Abram had apparently strayed from his calling, once when he settled in Haran, and second, when he went down to Egypt. Moreover it was in those places that he gained riches! Is this to advocate straying from the Lord’s plan? Heaven forbid! No, but it does say that the Lord will use every opportunity to bless His new follower. Do you believe the Lord will only bless you when things are going well? Be clear on what happened in both these times. First he settled in Haran because his father settled there and, I suggest, he honoured his father by staying there a while at least. He wasn’t there out of his own making. In the second instance, it was a famine in the Land that drove him south to Egypt. If there had been no famine he would not have gone. He did not go freely to either of these places. People and circumstances pressed him to go where he went.
But they weren’t the places of God’s calling for him. No, but that won’t stop the Lord blessing him. The Lord blesses him, not because of where he is but because of who he is. All the Lord requires is our obedience and when we are we find we are in the way of His blessing. When we wilfully disobey Him then things go wrong, but that isn’t His desire for us; He desires us to be in the place of blessing. We are afraid of this principle sometimes because we feel pastorally concerned for those who are not well off. Well, let’s change our approach. Let’s be positive and ask how we can bring them into blessing. Please note I didn’t say just make them well off. Blessing is good that comes from God. For good to come from God we have to lead people into a place of relationship with Him.
Is God going to bless those who have no relationship with Him? No quick answers here because even the unrighteous are often well off. There is possibly something her about God’s permissive will rather than His active will, i.e. He allows rather than brings affluence. But, again, go back to Deut 28 and there is no question but God promises blessing on His people who will obey Him, and that blessing can be seen in material terms.
At the very least when we come to the Lord, we want to check with Him that we are doing what He wants us to be doing in terms of career. Thereafter as we seek Him and seek His wisdom (Jas 1:5) we should expect our lives to improve. Now that may not mean money. Three times in my working life I made career changes and three times I took a third cut in salary to do it, but my quality of life greatly improved on each occasion. Money does not necessarily equate with quality of life. But quality of life (and that may include material blessing) is something to concern us but the most important thing is to seek and do His will as He reveals it to us. Speaking about things or possessions, Jesus said, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Mt 6:33) Putting the rule of God first is key.
The apostle Paul was later to write, “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Rom8:28) Note the components of that well-known verse. What God is doing – working for our good. Where – in all things. Who is He doing it for – those who love Him. Why only them? Because He needs our cooperation to do so much in our lives and He has that in those who love Him. If someone disregards Him and refuses Him (and He sees that is how they will always be) how can He work with their cooperation? He can’t! Don’t worry about them; focus on your own relationship with the Lord. Ensure your heart is open to Him and you understand His will for you and you live according to that – then leave the rest to Him. Amen?