We are getting back into our series on the Christian and Prosperity. And there are a number of Biblical specifics that I want to cover - such as Biblical accounting (I'm hoping to get to that next week), risk management, debt issues, passing on a inheritance, trying to minimize the impact of government locusts while benefiting from government, etc., etc. So there are a number of specific practical issues that deserve a sermon devoted them. Then there are covenant issues in Deuteronomy 27-30 that apply to a culture as a whole. We can't just approach the issue of prosperity individualistically because we are affected by the decisions of others just as we affect our children and our grand children and many other people through our own decisions. The issue of prosperity is complex even when you are talking about spiritual, social, physical or family prosperity. And so, over the course of several weeks we have sought to lay the foundations of a view of prosperity that avoids the extremes on the subject, and yet promotes real faith to expect great things from God in our families. Our theme verse is 3 John 2 which prays for prosperity in our soul, in our body and in all other areas of life. Let's see if we can't remember it and say it together. Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers. That was written to an individual. And Psalm 1 applies to an individual. Deuteronomy 27-30 shows the covenant context for prosperity on a culture wide basis. This Psalm shows the covenant context of prosperity on an individual basis. And I want you to notice that this Psalm promises prosperity just as broadly as 3 John 2, or Mark 10 or some of the other New Testament passages do. Look at the last phrase of verse 3. And whatever he does shall prosper. It doesn't just promise an unseen prosperity in his devotions, his child rearing or his worship. It says, whatever he does… Verse 1 says simply, Blessed is the man…
Now this has given rise to offense over this Psalm. Some commentators (Briggs, Kittel, Buttenwieser, etc.) think that this Psalm gives a distorted view of happiness and exaggerates the prosperity of believers. And people like that would point to the countless problems that Christians have faced, such as poverty, persecution and death, and say that this psalm is contradicted by real life situations. I had a PCA elder who any time God's outward blessings were mentioned would say, "Well, you can't take that literallty." And as proof he would say that he knows lots of Christians who are not prospering in all that they do.
And so let me just make some clarification: In Mark 10 Jesus did not deny that His stewards would have to sacrifice many things in this life. He talked about them losing lands, houses, wives, husbands, children for His sake and the Gospels. Have Christians lost lands and had family members martyred? Yes they have. But Jesus did not deny that they were prospering. In fact, Jesus gave just as universal, and just as (quote unquote) "unrealistic" an appraisal of the situation as Psalm 1 does. Let me read you His precise words. He said, Assuredly [not "maybe." Not "I hope so." Not, "in most situations." He said, "Assuredly"], I say to you, there is no one [here's a universal - anyone who lives as a follower of Christ should - who has given to the Lord everything He has and is now handling those things as a steward should - everyone of those kind of people will prosper in the very areas that they are having difficulties in. And so Jesus says, "there is no one"] who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the Gospels, who shall not receive a hundredfold [now I would say that is really prospering. "a hundredfold"] now in this time - houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come, eternal life. People like to spiritualize away the prosperity in Psalm 1 and say that it only refers to heaven and that it only refers to intangible such as relationship. But Psalm 1 says that they prosper in all that they do. Christ included such tangible blessings as lands and houses. And Jesus says that such incredible prosperity happens even during times of persecution, privation and hardship. God provides. God comes through in all you do (emphasis on the word "does" in verse 3). What have you been doing this past week? Trying to build a house and make an honest living as a carpenter? God can prosper you in that. Trying to teach your children? God can prosper you in that by giving you wisdom, efficiency, etc. Are you involved in paying bills? He can give you prosperity in that. Are you involved in trying to nurse a disease? He can give you prosperity in that.
In fact, before we look at the Psalm,, I want you to do a brief survey of a few verses just in Genesis where prosperity is promised so that you can see that it doesn't just apply to money; nor does the term just apply to intangible things. The word "prosper" occurs over 100 times. I'm just going to look at a tiny sampling in this book of foundations that I think it is representative.
Turn first to Genesis 24:21. This is the beautiful story of Abraham sending his servant to Mesopotamia to look for a wife for Isaac. And the servant asks God's guidance and direction and makes a very bold prayer. God answers step one of the prayer with Rebekah going to a huge amount of work to water his camels when all that he had asked for was a drink of water for himself. Look at verse 21. And the man, wondering at her, remained silent so as to know whether the LORD had made his journey prosperous or not. This didn't have anything to do with gaining money. This had to do with God blessing his master's son with a godly wife. Look at verse 40. But he [that is, Abraham] said to me, 'The LORD, before whom I walk, will send His angel with you and prosper your way; and you shall take a wife for my son from my family and from my father's house. So prosperity can deal with your finding a good spouse. And there are passages in the Old Testament that show the prosperity of a marriage relationship flowing from the covenant.
Look next at Genesis 26:12-15. Then Isaac sowed in that land, and reaped in the same year a hundredfold; and the LORD blessed him. The man began to prosper, and continued prospering until he became very prosperous; for he had possessions of flocks and possessions of herds and a great number of servants. So the Philistines envied him. Actually, that last phrase is very illuminating. In case you think that physical prosperity is without its problems, keep in mind that the envy of those who aren't dominion minded will always be aroused if they think you are wealthy. They will try to take it away from you. Resentement always seeks to destroy what it can't have. You might want to keep your wealth somewhat of a secret. If you keep reading you will see some of the persecutions that came to Isaac because of God's prospering Him. These are the same kinds of persecutions that Jesus promised in Mark 10 along with the hundredfold prosperity. So a second kind of prospering is asset accrual. And that is promised over and over in the Old Testament.
But let's look at Genesis 39 for a slightly different kind of prosperity. This is speaking of Joseph when he was a slave and owned nothing. He owned nothing, and yet he prospered in the midst of his perseuctions and trials. Let's read verses 1-6.
Genesis 39:1 Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt. And Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, captain of the guard, an Egyptian, bought him from the Ishmaelites who had taken him down there.
Genesis 39:2 The LORD was with Joseph, and he was a successful man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian.
Genesis 39:3 And his master saw that the LORD was with him and that the LORD made all he did to prosper in his hand.
Genesis 39:4 So Joseph found favor in his sight, and served him. Then he made him overseer of his house, and all that he had he put under his authority.
Genesis 39:5 So it was, from the time that he had made him overseer of his house and all that he had, that the LORD blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; and the blessing of the LORD was on all that he had in the house and in the field.
Genesis 39:6 Thus he left all that he had in Joseph’s hand, and he did not know what he had except for the bread which he ate. Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance.
Here is God giving such wisdom and abilities that his work was prospered, and everyone can see it. He was just able to do what other people couldn't do. It couldn't be explained in only a natural way. It was something that God blessed him with and prospered him with. I have seen my work when God prospered it, and I have seen my work when God did not prosper it. And you can tell the difference.
Now even then, he wasn't without persecution. You can't prosper without taking some heat. He get's thrown in jail. But even though it was a new place, God raised him from punishment to work, to overseeing. Look at verse 23. The keeper of the prison did not look into anything that was under Joseph's authority, because the LORD was with him; and whatever he did, the LORD made it to prosper. This is the kind of prosperity that I am praying for each of you in your businesses. I am praying that God would so touch the work of your hand that you would gain favor in the eyes of others.
We won't take time to look at all the other forms of prosperity that are out there, but it covers all of life. Scripture speaks of a war being prospered (2 Sam. 11:7), the digging of a tunnel being prospered (2 Chron. 32:30), the building of the walls being prospered (Ezra 5:8). It covers having babies, friends, good gardens, etc. Deuteronomy 29:9 says, Therefore keep the words of this covenant, and do them, that you may prosper in all that you do. In God's book, prosperity cannot be spiritualized away. It covers all of life.
So let's go back to Psalm 2 and see first the promise, second, who the promise is made to and third, the contrast with the wicked.
The Promise (vv. 1a, 3)
You can see the promise throughout the Psalm.
Verse 1 says, Blessed is the man… Blessing comes from outside. God makes His pronouncement upon us and makes it happen. We are talking about the supernatural here. This is something that the ungodly don't have no matter how much money or how many children they have. They heap their money up for judgment. But God blesses the righteous with His favor.
In verse 2 we see God prospering us with delight. This is prospering our emotions. And our emotions do need to be set apart or sanctified or we wouldn't take delight in God's law. Romans 8:7 says, the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. God is prospering our study of the Word by giving us a delight; a holy hunger for that word.
Verse 3 says, He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water. This tree doesn't have to eke out an existence because of the lack of water. There are never ending rivers of water to satisfy and refresh. And I think this especially speaks of the overflow of the Spirit in our life. Rivers of living waters. That's prospering us spiritually.
He goes on to say, that brings forth its fruit in its season… When God, through the Spirit's application of the Word, begins to transform us and pour life into us, we will begin to bear fruit in due season. There may be planting and watering that is done by pastor, by friends and by yourself, but only God can bring the increase in your life. Only He can prosper it. And fruitfulness can apply to virtually everything. For example, when God said that Joseph would be a fruitful bough, a fruitful bough by a well… he went on to explain that this fruitfulness would come from the Almighty who will bless you with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that lies beneath, blessings of the breast and of the womb, etc. I'll leave you to figure out what that means. But God speaks of fruitfulness in our lives.
Psalm 2:3 goes on to say, whose leaf also shall not wither… Drought and sun normal wither other plants eventually, but not this tree. Because of the Spirit's blessings he or she can handle all of the tribulations of the world and still come out ahead. Here's how Jeremiah 17 amplifies on this. Jeremiah first of all likens the wicked to a shrub in the desert whose existence is always tenuous; always precarious. But he goes on to say, Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, and whose hope is the LORD. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear when heat comes; but its leaf will be green, and will not be anxious in the year of drought, nor will cease from yielding fruit. He is not denying that drought will come, but he says that the righteous need fear nothing because God always and in all circumstances causes him to prosper. He can't help but prosper. He can't help but bear fruit.
Finally, verse 3 promises… And whatever he does shall prosper. I hope by now you have cast away the false Greek dualism that infects the church of Jesus Christ in the twentieth century. Dispensationalism has taught for years that God has two purposes in history - an earthly prupose for Israel and a heavenly purpose for the church. And they have taught us to reject any earthly promises. That is Greek dualism that sees the body and finances as unimportant. Jesus wants us to take dominion over all that is on the earth. He didn't just say, All authority has been given to Me in heaven… That would vindicate dispensationalism. He says instead, All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. All. Nothing is outside of the scope of Christ's grace, His kingship and therefore nothing outside the scope of His prospering. That's the comprehensive promise of the God who loves you.
Who This Promise is Given To
But it does have conditions attached to it. They are conditions that God's grace provides, but they are conditions non-the-less. And so under point number II I want to look at the conditions for prosperity in the life of the Christian, and I've written down nine conditions. Let me jump around in the Psalm and seek to systematize these conditions. First, the positive, then the negative of verse 1.
He must be Planted Into the Covenant (v. 3)
But the first positive is that this person must be planted by God into the covenant. These are after all, covenant blessings. This is not a shoot that springs up on its own. This is where God takes a person and digs a hole in His garden and deliberately plants that young seedling into His ground. We are described by the Lord as planted by Him. Some of us were planted into the covenant as adults. God regenerated our hearts turning them soft to the Gospel. He gave our blind spiritual eyes new sight, our dead spiritual corpse new life and He planted us into the covenant body to be nurtured. Psalm 92:13 says, Those who are planted in the house of the LORD Shall flourish in the courts of our God. Like I say, some of us were planted as adults, and it wasn't because we chose Him, but because He first chose us.
Others of us were planted by God as covenant children, again, not because we first chose Him, but because He chose us. And what a mercy it is to have our children claimed by the Lord before they can speak. Ezekiel 17:22 speaks of covenant children as a twig cut from the tree and planted by the Lord. Psalm 128:3 says, Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine in the very heart of your house, Your children like olive plants all around your table. So the first condition for prosperity of any sort is that we be planted by God into the covenant. Even Cornelius, who was regenerate before he came into the church and to whom God said that He heard his prayers and his alms, was not prospered until He was planted into the covenant.
Now if you want to see the contrast, see verse 5's description of those who are not in the covenant. Verse 4 starts by denying any of the prosperity that the righteous have applies to the ungodly. The ungodly are not so… But look at verse 5: Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. That's what we've been planted into: the congregation of the righteous. The reason the ungodly don't prosper is because they aren't in the congregation of the righteous. We need to take the congregation as a whole seriously. How we relate covenantally to each other affects our prosperity. Over and over God's blessings and prosperity are promised in the context of the assembly of the saints. Psalm 122:7 says of the church, Peace be within your walls, Prosperity within your palaces.” Psalm 133 says, Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! He goes on to describe that unity and then says, for there the LORD commanded the blessing…
He must Delight in God's Law (v. 2)
The second condition is also something that comes by God's grace. This person who prospers in all that he does is someone who delights in God's law so much that it becomes a part of His life. It's as much part of him as wearing his clothes. Verse 2 says, But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night. This is of course the flip side to the negative qualifications we are going to look at in verse 1. We must know what God's blueprints are if we are to reject the world's counterfeits. We must understand Biblical economics if we are to prosper economically. We must understand Biblical accounting if we are to prosper in the measurement, management and evaluation of our life and of scarce resources. We must understand Biblical leadership, child rearing, education, etc. if we are to prosper in those areas. I have been amazed at the insights into astronomy that D. Russell Humphreys has gained from the Scriptures into some of the puzzles of astonomy such as gravitational force, the gravitational position of the earth in the universe, time, etc. And I think very convincingly. Obviously all of us are growing and continually correcting and recorrecting our thinking on different areas, but the fact that we are making corrections is good. It shows humility and it shows progress. It shows delight and interest in God's Word. Meditate deeply on the Scriptures. Let me read you two more promises of prosperity connected to this condition.
Joshua 1:7 “Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go.
Joshua 1:8 “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.
1 Timothy 4:15 says, meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all.
Some of you may not realize what an incredibly rich resource that you are in this city. There isn't any other church in town that can provide the level of Biblical knowledge on various subjects that several of you have. Some of you mothers know more about Biblical subjects than almost any other pastor in this town has. And that is a blessing that we ought not to take for granted. When a Ken Cope is willing to take time out of an incredibly busy schedule to share his expertise in business and economics, the rest of us who are hungry for knowledge in that area are delighted. Now that's not to say that all of you will study every topic at any given moment. There are seasons of life. But it has gratified me to see you asking each other for advise and counsel on various subjects and see the recommended books flying around and e-mail advise. I give counsel on a whole host of topics to several of you, but I am every so thankful that God has been multiplying my efforts with the wisdom of people like Rodney Swab, Curt Knight, Ken Cope Bob, Fugate, and others. Every one of you is a resource of information that other churches ought to envy. Believe me, I cherish it. But it shows a delight in God's law, and it gives me encouragement that God will proportionately bless you.
He must Act upon His Knowledge (v. 3)
A third condition is that we must act upon our knowledge before God will prosper us. Verse 3 implies that we shouldn't just be theological egg heads. Verse 3 doesn't say, "Whatever he says will prosper" nor does it say, "whatever he thinks shall prosper." It says, "Whatever he does shall prosper. We must act upon our knowledge before there is something there to be blessed. We must be willing to invest before our investments will grow. We must be willing to evangelize before God can prosper our evangelism. We must be willing to lay hold of the education of our children before the education is automatically be prospered. God doesn't promise to prosper the education that a teacher does of your children. HE promises to prosper what you do. So we must put into action what we want God to prosper.
We Must Depend Upon the Lord's Grace and Provisions (v. 3)
Fourth, we must learn to depend upon the Lord's grace and provision. It's very easy to take action without trusting God. So this balances the previous point. Jesus told His disciples, without Me, you can do nothing. And He meant nothing. Faith is a prerequisite to prosperity. And that is implied in the rivers of water that the tree is getting its nourishment from in verse 3. It is dependent upon those waters just as we must be dependent upon God.
The Reality of the Spirit's Life Within (v. 4)
The fifth condition is seen negatively in verse 4 by what the ungodly do not have. They don't have the life of the kernal. Verse 4 says that there are some people who look like they are prospering, but they are really just chaff. An empty husk. Some people profess to be Christians. Like chaff they have an outward form of Christianity, but lack the wheat within. No substance. If we have a form of godliness but deny the power thereof, we won't be prospered. Formalism in Christianity is dangerous. We need the reality of God's presence with us. Not perfection (because no one is perfect in this life), but the reality of His life being lived out through us.
Boldness and Confidence of Faith (v. 5-6)
Verses 5-6 speaks of boldness and confidence concerning our relationship to God. We don't fear judgment day (v 5) and we are secure in our relationship with the Lord (v. 6). Proverbs 28:25 says, he who trusts in the LORD will be prospered. We need trust. We need boldness and confidence with respect to the future. If you are always looking over your shoulder or fearing what comes ahead you will have a hard time concentrating on and having faith for the present.
But let's look at three negative conditions in verse 1. This is another way of looking at the same conditions, but it is by way of antithesis. And verse 1 provides the antithesis or the opposite that is denied. It's not enough to say what we believe. It's what we deny that reveals the true character of whether we will waffle or not.
Don't walk in the counsel of the ungodly (v. 1a)
Verse 1: Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly. There are two counsels spoken of in the Psalms: the counsel of Scripture and the counsel of the lawless. And literally the word ungodly is "lawless." Those who don't have God's law, whether they are believers or unbelievers are giving counsel that has to be carefully evaluated. Now sometimes the lawless borrow capital from the Bible while ignoring the context. You might agree with many of their conclusions, but should not pattern your life after them. To walk in counsel means to pattern your life after them. You follow them where they tell you to go. And there are times when Christians get excited about something profound and Biblical that a lawless person will say, and rather than eating the corn and throwing away the corncob, they eat it all: the corn, the cob, the husk and the corn stalks. Even Paul told his congregations to only imitate Him as he followed Christ.
The counsel of the lawless personifies humanism which seeks to interpret the world without reference to God's law. Even conservatives can do that, OK? We shouldn't blindly swallow everything that conservatives tell us. Isaiah 8:20 needs to be our watchword: To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them. Humanism is a counsel founded upon man, centered around man and with the goal of serving man. If we walk in the counsel of the conservatives just because their principles of economics, etc works - and it does work because it borrows from the bible, we may end up having an even more dangerous humanism that glories in man rather than God. So that is the counsel of the lawless.
The other counsel spoken of in the book of Proverbs is the counsel of God as given in His revealed law. It is a counsel that looks at the same facts of life but causes us to walk in a different way. And the Scripture speaks to all of life. We are not just talking about a ticket to heaven here. Scripture addresses man wholistically. It is just that Christians are often so ignorant of it. It helps us interpret the facts of geology more correctly because it keeps us from making the false assumption that the world is millions of years old. It gives us many other working assumptions in the field of geology that have helped Christian scientists in their discoveries. The first person to find oil in Egypt was laughed out of conference when he told them that there had to be oil in Egypt since Scripture's references to tar pits and other phenomena pointed in that direction. They took him as a mad man since it did not fit into geology as it was then known. And you know the rest of the story.
The Bible helps us with our theories on genetics by letting us know that there are limits beyond which genetic change cannot pass. We've discovered that genetic information can be lost, but it can never be added to. And it gives us other working assumptions in that field that keep us from fruitless research and endeavor. The Bible presents a framework for mathematics that has solved one of the most perplexing impasses between the three non-Christian theories of mathematics. And you could go on and on. Whether you are dealing with the practical or the theoretical, the Christian has the tremendous blessing of avoiding the pitfalls and snares that are hidden in the counsel of the ungodly. And it is a dangerous counsel whether it is conservative or liberal if we walk in it rather than simply learning from it.
Don't stand in the path of sinners (v. 1b)
The next phrase in verse 1 says, nor stands in the path of sinners. "Stands" or "takes his stand" indicates a deliberate commitment or obstinacy of purpose. The first phrase may indicate a person who is simply deceived by constant association with ungodly teachers. The second phrase indicates a person who is committed to a path and can't be turned away from it. And I have run across a few Christians who have made a bad decision and stick by that decision even when there is enormous evidence to the contrary. Whether it is pride, or the fear of man, or some other motivation, to take a stand against God's law and for the path of lawlessness is to take ourselves out of the path of blessing and true prosperity. It is no wonder to me that the church in America has had almost zero impact upon our culture. God has not prospered the prolife movement, the antisodomy movement, or any other attempts to be salt. God has not prospered it. Why? They not only walk in the counsel of the ungodly (and that can be seen by any number of Gallop and Barna polls), but they have deliberately taken stands against God's law. You've all heard the slogans and teachings on the radio that pits law against grace; that denies the power of God's healing, that denies any relationship between God's covenant and other forms of prosperity. They may have truth in other areas, but these stands against the truth prevent them from fully entering into God's prosperity in all that they do.
Proverbs 28:13 says, He who covers his sins will not prosper,
Don't sit in the seat of the scornful (v. 1c)
The last phrase in verse 1 says, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful. This is the scariest part for me - to know that there are well respected Christians who are scornful of God's law, and who teach others to despise it. Martin Luther is correct when he says, "with respect to the term 'seat,' to sit in the seat, is to teach, to act the instructor and teacher; as in Matt. 23:2 'The scribes sit in Moses' seat.'"
And so this last class would be the most advanced in their opposition to God in that they themselves relish in pulling others away from God's law. Scoffing by its very nature tends to involve others in the sin. I might mention also that scoffing offers no remedy. It's one thing to criticize, its quite another thing to have something concrete to replace it with. These Christians who hate God's law, or who mock at the idea of healing, or who scoff at the idea that God prospers every area of life cannot offer any alternative that is satisfactory. One famous theologian who rejects God's law written in the Bible says that we can look with unbelievers at natural law and come up with a satisfactory solution. They would rather collaborate with the unregenerate in coming up with law and teach that, rather than teaching Biblical law.
So being a Christian is not enough. We must have a covenant context to what we do if we are to experience the prosperity that is promised. Deuteronomy 29:9 says, Therefore keep the words of this covenant, and do them, that you may prosper in all that you do..1
The Ultimate Difference Between the Righteous and The Wicked
But let's end quickly on the ultimate difference between the lawless and the righteous. Obviously the things we have looked at show a fundamental difference in worldview and life. But you could summarize three things that show a powerful difference between them and us not only for time but for all of eternity. The ultimate three differences are that we have God's power, His righteousness and His eternal favor. And if that's all that we had, we could be content. We would be prospered indeed if that was all that we had.
God's power can be seen throughout the passage, but I think it is nicely summed up in verse 4. The ungodly are not so, but are like the chaff which the wind drives away. They may have an outward form of righteousness. Many lawless conservatives do things right in many areas, but they don't have God. The image of chaff is powerful. Chaff is the useless outside of the grain that we try to remove. It has the shape of the grain and may at first look like a kernal of wheat. But upon closer examination you find that it is hollow. If you planted it, it would just rot. It wouldn't grow. What makes the difference is that the wheat kernal has life within. It has the power to grow. And the question that we need to answer is, "Do I have the power of God within, or am I outwardly prospering simply because I am borrowing some of the outward shape of the covenant? Am I prospering simply because I am connected with other true believers" Christianity without the power of God is hollow. Our doubts about prosperity often flow from a doubt about our apprehension of God's power. But Ephesians 1:19 assures us of the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ… This is a distinguishing mark of every Christian. He has power and not just an empty ritual.
God's Legally Imputed Righteousness (v. 5)
The second distinguishing mark is God's righteousness imputed to us. Verse 5 speaks of a judgment day that everyone will face. It also hints at why it is that we sinners can be called righteous. Scripture says that there is only one righteous: God. Ultimately this Psalm describes the difference between the first Adam and the Second Adam. All in the first Adam are under condemnation. All who are united to the Second Adam (Jesus Chrsit, the God-man) have justification. When you get to the court room in heaven and you have all of your sins thrown at you and someone saying, "You are guilty of many sins, you are deserving of death" you need to have an answer. And the only answer you can give is that in yourself you are a sinner, true. But you are not coming in your own merits. You are coming in the merits of Jesus Christ who promised to die for your sin and who promised to give you His perfect righteousness in exchange. I cling to Him. HE is my only defence. We are called "the righteous" not because of what we do, but because of what Jesus did for us and who we are in Him. Without the covering of His righteousness, we are lost. Verse 5 says, Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment… Justification by faith alone is a wonderful, liberating, assuring doctrine without which we cannot have the faith to prosper in life.
God's eternal favor (v. 6)
The third thing that separates us ultimately in terms of prospering is God's eternal favor. Verse 6 says, For the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the ungodly shall perish. This is not speaking of God's omniscience, because in that sense of the word know, He knows everyone. But this is the meaning of the word know that means to know intimiately or to be in relationship with. Scripture says that Adam knew his wife Eve and she conceived. In Amos God says to Israel, You only have I known of all the families of the earth. It is God's relationship and favor and intimacy resting upon His people. When you have that, you can lose everything in the stock market and still rejoice.
However, on judgment day if Jesus says to us, "I never knew you. Depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness" all the money we may have gotten in the world will be meaningless. Prosperity is no prosperity if we do not know Jesus. But if we know Him, He will cause us to prosper in all things and in all places, even when we are down and out from the world's perspective. When we have no food He will prosper us with our next meals because the Scripture says, I have not seen the righteous forsaken, Nor his descendants begging bread (Psalm 37:5). He will prosper us financially when we are tight or when we are full. He will prosper us whether we are threatened with nakedness, famine, peril or sword because nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus.
Does God prosper us financially? Absolutely yes. And pietists who deny it are ignoring a vast body of Scriptures. Is such prosperity compatible with temporary set backs? Absolutely yes. But the overall thrust of the man in Psalm 1 is that God continues to prosper him in all that he does over the whole course of his life.
But it is only as we are in covenant with God, filled with His power, secure in His righteousness and confident in His love. And I just want to urge you to put on the context of the covenant given in this Psalm, seek God and His righteousness and watch all these things be added to you. Amen.
2Kings 18:7 The LORD was with him; he prospered wherever he went. And he rebelled against the king of Assyria and did not serve him.
1Chronicles 22:13 “Then you will prosper, if you take care to fulfill the statutes and judgments with which the LORD charged Moses concerning Israel. Be strong and of good courage; do not fear nor be dismayed.
2Chronicles 32:30 This same Hezekiah also stopped the water outlet of Upper Gihon, and brought the water by tunnel to the west side of the City of David. Hezekiah prospered in all his works.
1Kings 2:3 “And keep the charge of the LORD your God: to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments, His judgments, and His testimonies, as it is written in the Law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn; ↩