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In the first 2 installments in this series, we have explored the origins of poverty, several biblical patriarchs and their relationship to money, as well as what the “wisdom books” of the OT have to say on the topic of finances. In this article, we will explore God’s dealings with the nation of Israel beginning with Joseph in Egypt and ending with them in the Promised Land.
From Genesis chapters 37 through 50, we read the saga of Joseph. Most folks know this story from a gazillion Sunday School presentations, so I will summarize it here.
Joseph was sold into slavery because his older brothers hated him, he ended up in Egypt, rose to be chief steward of a rich Egyptian’s household where he was later falsely accused of attempted rape by the Egyptian master’s horny wife, and then ended up in prison for it. While there, his godly wisdom was so impressive, he became the lead prisoner in the jail. After awhile, his ability to interpret dreams came to the attention of Pharaoh, who had a dream his pagan advisors could not interpret. Joseph was able to correctly interpret that dream and, as a reward, was promoted from prison to be the prime minister of Egypt. Joseph successfully prepared the kingdom for a coming famine and, as that famine spread throughout the Middle East, his father Jacob sent his older brothers to seek food in Egypt. Though he was in a position to wreak major revenge upon his brothers, Joseph dealt with them mercifully and, after it was all said and done, the entire family emigrated to Egypt in order to survive the famine.
Some quick points here and then we will move on.
- Joseph maintained a righteous lifestyle and good attitude despite the many major injustices inflicted upon him, never becoming vengeful or bitter, though he had every right to be.
- It seems that Joseph never got mad at God, blaming Him for his misfortunes when everything went south on him.
- Because he exhibited diligence and godly wisdom in all his dealings, he consistently rose to prominence wherever he found himself, even in prison.
- Though Joseph had to endure lengthy periods of poverty, God eventually redeemed him out of them all, finally exalting him to a place where poverty was never again an issue.
The Children of Israel
We will continue this discussion with the Book of Exodus and, again, we will summarize the story. Here we find that the children of Israel had explosively multiplied and prospered in Egypt for 400+ years, to the point where the Egyptians became alarmed at the size of the Jewish population. A Pharaoh arose who didn’t remember Joseph’s role as savior to the nation and decided to take action, enslaving the Israelites and oppressing them at every turn. God raised up Moses to deliver the Israelites from their bondage, and through a series of miraculous events, finally got Pharaoh to set them free. We will take up the narrative where the Israelites fulfilled the prophesy given by God to Abraham 400+ years earlier:
Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years. And also the nation whom they serve I will judge; afterward they shall come out with great possessions. — Genesis 15:13-14
And the Lord said to Moses, ‘I will bring yet one more plague on Pharaoh and on Egypt. Afterward he will let you go from here. When he lets you go, he will surely drive you out of here altogether. Speak now in the hearing of the people, and let every man ask from his neighbor and every woman from her neighbor, articles of silver and articles of gold.’ And the Lord gave the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians. Moreover the man Moses was very great in the land of Egypt, in the sight of Pharaoh’s servants and in the sight of the people. — Exodus 11:1-3
Now the children of Israel had done according to the word of Moses, and they had asked from the Egyptians articles of silver, articles of gold, and clothing. And the Lord had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they granted them what they requested. Thus they plundered the Egyptians. — Exodus 12:35-36
Ever wonder how a bunch of slaves acquired all the gold, silver, fine cloth, and precious stones, etc. to build that big fancy tent and its furnishings God commissioned — not to mention that solid gold cow they crafted while Moses was up on Mt Sinai! — while they were in the wilderness? This is your answer!
Please note that, while the Israelites gave a significant portion of their wealth to build God’s tabernacle, the Law given to them by God through Moses only required a tenth — the tithe — as part of their regular worship. And that was only a tenth of the increase (profit) they made through their agricultural activities.
Let’s now fast-forward to the end of their 40-years in the wilderness as they are standing at the threshold of the Promised Land after the unbelieving generation had died off. We will take up the narrative in Deuteronomy 8:
Every commandment which I command you today you must be careful to observe, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land of which the Lord swore to your fathers. And you shall remember that the LORD your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord. Your garments did not wear out on you, nor did your foot swell these forty years. You should know in your heart that as a man chastens his son, so the LORD your God chastens you.
Therefore you shall keep the commandments of the Lord your God, to walk in His ways and to fear Him. For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, that flow out of valleys and hills; a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey; a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing; a land whose stones are iron and out of whose hills you can dig copper.
When you have eaten and are full, then you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land which He has given you. Beware that you do not forget the Lord your God by not keeping His commandments, His judgments, and His statutes which I command you today, lest — when you have eaten and are full, and have built beautiful houses and dwell in them; and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and your gold are multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied; when your heart is lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God Who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage; Who led you through that great and terrible wilderness, in which were fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty land where there was no water; Who brought water for you out of the flinty rock; Who fed you in the wilderness with manna, which your fathers did not know, that He might humble you and that He might test you, to do you good in the end — then you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gained me this wealth.’ And you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day.
Then it shall be, if you by any means forget the Lord your God, and follow other gods, and serve them and worship them, I testify against you this day that you shall surely perish. As the nations which the Lord destroys before you, so you shall perish, because you would not be obedient to the voice of the Lord your God. — Deuteronomy 8
Boy, Moses just said a mouthful and that wasn’t the half of what is recorded in this book! Now, let’s unpack this chapter:
First, Moses begins and ends this passage with admonitions against disobedience and idolatry, that for the Israelites to experience the blessings of the Promised Land, they must stay true to God and His commandments. He also warns against them allowing their riches to seduce them into spiritual complacency and a sense of entitlement, rather than them being mindful of and grateful for the fact that God was the One Who blessed them and their labors.
This has not changed under the New Covenant. The second we start worshipping money, success, and their trappings or engage in a “born on 3rd base, thinking we have hit a triple” attitude and start taking credit for God’s blessings, we have just started the countdown timer on our next financial disaster. Why? Because God will withhold His provision and His protection over that provision, allowing Satan to steal our wealth until we get out heads screwed back on straight and repent!
Second, notice that God not only supernaturally provided food and water to the Israelites while they were in the wilderness, but their clothes and shoes didn’t even wear out for 40 years! This fact is repeatedly stated as Moses reminds them of God’s supernatural provision.
Third, please note the financial blessings promised here:
- Abundance of water, vital to an agricultural economy
- Abundance in their crop harvests:
- Vines (grapes)
- Fig trees
- Bread without scarcity (i.e., no droughts)
- No lack of any kind
- Abundance of mineral wealth (iron, copper)
- Beautiful houses
God, speaking through Moses, then makes an astonishing statement:
And you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day. — Deuteronomy 8:18
Did Moses really just state that the ability to get wealth is God-given for the purpose of establishing His covenant with their forefathers (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob)? Yup. that is precisely what he said!
The Blessing of the Law
Now let’s fast forward to Deuteronomy 28, where in the first 14 verses we find the blessings that come from obedience to the Most High:
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, that the Lord your God will set you high above all nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, because you obey the voice of the Lord your God:
- Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the country.
- Blessed shall be the fruit of your body, the produce of your ground and the increase of your herds, the increase of your cattle and the offspring of your flocks.
- Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl.
- Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out.
- The Lord will cause your enemies who rise against you to be defeated before your face; they shall come out against you one way and flee before you seven ways.
- 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.
- The Lord will establish you as a holy people to Himself, just as He has sworn to you, if you keep the commandments of the LORD your God and walk in His ways.
- Then all peoples of the earth shall see that you are called by the name of the Lord, and they shall be afraid of you.
- And the Lord will grant you plenty of goods, in the fruit of your body, in the increase of your livestock, and in the produce of your ground, in the land of which the Lord swore to your fathers to give you.
- The Lord will open to you His good treasure, the heavens, to give the rain to your land in its season, and to bless all the work of your hand. You shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow.
- And the Lord will make you the head and not the tail; you shall be above only, and not be beneath, if you heed the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you today, and are careful to observe them.
So you shall not turn aside from any of the words which I command you this day, to the right or the left, to go after other gods to serve them. — Deuteronomy 28:1-14 (numbering mine)
Again, we have an admonition to obedience, but what blessings attend that obedience! Those blessings would come upon the Israelites and overtake them.
Those blessings are unlimited by geography or location or type of business venture. Their enemies would be defeated. The Lord would command blessings upon their equivalent to a bank account and everything they put their hand to would prosper. God would make them a holy people and all the other nations would look on the Jews and be afraid of them because of the Lord’s protection. The Lord would prosper them with goods and children and profitable agriculture. The Lord would ensure that there was plenty of rain to water the crops. They would have plenty of money to lend without having to borrow. They would be the head, not the tail; above, not beneath.
For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us. — 2 Corinthians 1:20
As believers, we have access to these selfsame promises, with the same qualifying condition: obedience to the Most High
The Curse of the Law
The entire remainder of Deuteronomy 28 comprises the “Curse of the Law,” a lengthy list of the curses the Israelites would suffer for abandoning the Lord in favor of other gods. I’ve addressed this in some detail elsewhere, but that article was focused on divine healing, rather than divine provision. Because of the length of this passage, I have omitted the verses not directly concerning finances; I have left the verse numbers in place so you can see where I skipped:
16 Cursed shall you be in the city, and cursed shall you be in the country.
17 Cursed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl.
18 Cursed shall be the fruit of your body and the produce of your land, the increase of your cattle and the offspring of your flocks.
19 Cursed shall you be when you come in, and cursed shall you be when you go out.
20 The Lord will send on you cursing, confusion, and rebuke in all that you set your hand to do, until you are destroyed and until you perish quickly, because of the wickedness of your doings in which you have forsaken Me.
23 And your heavens which are over your head shall be bronze, and the earth which is under you shall be iron.
24 The Lord will change the rain of your land to powder and dust; from the heaven it shall come down on you until you are destroyed.
25 The Lord will cause you to be defeated before your enemies; you shall go out one way against them and flee seven ways before them; and you shall become troublesome to all the kingdoms of the earth.
26 Your carcasses shall be food for all the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth, and no one shall frighten them away.
29 And you shall grope at noonday, as a blind man gropes in darkness; you shall not prosper in your ways; you shall be only oppressed and plundered continually, and no one shall save you.
30 You shall betroth a wife, but another man shall lie with her; you shall build a house, but you shall not dwell in it; you shall plant a vineyard, but shall not gather its grapes.
31 Your ox shall be slaughtered before your eyes, but you shall not eat of it; your donkey shall be violently taken away from before you, and shall not be restored to you; your sheep shall be given to your enemies, and you shall have no one to rescue them.
32 Your sons and your daughters shall be given to another people, and your eyes shall look and fail with longing for them all day long; and there shall be no strength in your hand.
33 A nation whom you have not known shall eat the fruit of your land and the produce of your labor, and you shall be only oppressed and crushed continually.
34 So you shall be driven mad because of the sight which your eyes see.
36 The Lord will bring you and the king whom you set over you to a nation which neither you nor your fathers have known, and there you shall serve other gods — wood and stone. And you shall become an astonishment, a proverb, and a byword among all nations where the Lord will drive you.
38 You shall carry much seed out to the field but gather little in, for the locust shall consume it.
39 You shall plant vineyards and tend them, but you shall neither drink of the wine nor gather the grapes; for the worms shall eat them.
40 You shall have olive trees throughout all your territory, but you shall not anoint yourself with the oil; for your olives shall drop off.
41 You shall beget sons and daughters, but they shall not be yours; for they shall go into captivity.
42 Locusts shall consume all your trees and the produce of your land.
43 The alien who is among you shall rise higher and higher above you, and you shall come down lower and lower.
44 He shall lend to you, but you shall not lend to him; he shall be the head, and you shall be the tail.
45 Moreover all these curses shall come upon you and pursue and overtake you, until you are destroyed, because you did not obey the voice of the Lord your God, to keep His commandments and His statutes which He commanded you. And they shall be upon you for a sign and a wonder, and on your descendants forever. Because you did not serve the Lord your God with joy and gladness of heart, for the abundance of everything, therefore you shall serve your enemies, whom the Lord will send against you, in hunger, in thirst, in nakedness, and in need of everything; and He will put a yoke of iron on your neck until He has destroyed you.
49 The Lord will bring a nation against you from afar, from the end of the earth, as swift as the eagle flies, a nation whose language you will not understand, a nation of fierce countenance, which does not respect the elderly nor show favor to the young. And they shall eat the increase of your livestock and the produce of your land, until you are destroyed; they shall not leave you grain or new wine or oil, or the increase of your cattle or the offspring of your flocks, until they have destroyed you. They shall besiege you at all your gates until your high and fortified walls, in which you trust, come down throughout all your land; and they shall besiege you at all your gates throughout all your land which the Lord your God has given you. You shall eat the fruit of your own body, the flesh of your sons and your daughters whom the Lord your God has given you, in the siege and desperate straits in which your enemy shall distress you. The sensitive and very refined man among you will be hostile toward his brother, toward the wife of his bosom, and toward the rest of his children whom he leaves behind, so that he will not give any of them the flesh of his children whom he will eat, because he has nothing left in the siege and desperate straits in which your enemy shall distress you at all your gates. The tender and delicate woman among you, who would not venture to set the sole of her foot on the ground because of her delicateness and sensitivity, will refuse to the husband of her bosom, and to her son and her daughter, her placenta which comes out from between her feet and her children whom she bears; for she will eat them secretly for lack of everything in the siege and desperate straits in which your enemy shall distress you at all your gates.
62 You shall be left few in number, whereas you were as the stars of heaven in multitude, because you would not obey the voice of the Lord your God.
63 And it shall be, that just as the Lord rejoiced over you to do you good and multiply you, so the Lord will rejoice over you to destroy you and bring you to nothing; and you shall be plucked from off the land which you go to possess.
64 Then the Lord will scatter you among all peoples, from one end of the earth to the other, and there you shall serve other gods, which neither you nor your fathers have known — wood and stone.
65 And among those nations you shall find no rest, nor shall the sole of your foot have a resting place; but there the Lord will give you a trembling heart, failing eyes, and anguish of soul.
66 Your life shall hang in doubt before you; you shall fear day and night, and have no assurance of life.
67 In the morning you shall say, ‘Oh, that it were evening!’ And at evening you shall say, ‘Oh, that it were morning!’ because of the fear which terrifies your heart, and because of the sight which your eyes see.
68 And the Lord will take you back to Egypt in ships, by the way of which I said to you, ‘You shall never see it again.’ And there you shall be offered for sale to your enemies as male and female slaves, but no one will buy you.
I think this list is pretty self-explanatory and requires no summarization, analysis, or commentary. This laundry list of calamity describes the plight of both Jews and Gentiles alike who are living lives ruled by “whatever was right in their own eyes,” rather than in submission to the Lord Jesus. The vast majority of the world has found itself in one or more of these tragic states of existence throughout human history, even to this day.
The crucial point I want to make about the Curse of the Law is the same one I made concerning divine healing:
Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”)… — Galatians 3:13
Jesus became a curse for us by hanging on the Cross, taking upon Himself our inability to meet God’s standards through our dead religious works, and transforming those of us who believe into the righteous, the healed, the prosperous, and the delivered — all as a free gift which we could never afford to purchase were it for sale, could never earn through our own efforts were it a wage, and could not deserve through our own feeble attempts at “goodness” were it a reward for holy behavior.
In conclusion, the same redemption from sin purchased for us by Jesus’ finished work of the Cross also purchased us redemption from all the sickness and disease as well as the poverty-inducing situations described above!
Thanks for reading!