Today Derek goes back to his remarks about prosperity to give a clear definition of what that word means. He applies that definition by looking how it is used in Scripture. Then begins to examine God’s response to the what Job had to say. God challenged Job's ability to handle creation—the heavens, living creatures, and the wicked.
In Job 31 he gives a list of the sins he did not commit:
Number one, lusting after a young woman.
Number two, falsehood and deceitful actions, especially in business.
Number three, adultery.
Number four, oppression of his employees.
Number five, withholding mercy from widows and orphans. And then he says, on the contrary, he always cared for them.
Number six, trusting in his wealth.
Number seven, idolatry, the worship of the sun and the moon.
Number eight, rejoicing over his enemies’ misfortunes.
Number nine, failure to show hospitality to strangers. Which, in the Middle East, is still a terrible crime.
Number ten, failure to acknowledge his sin through fear of man.
And number eleven, injustice toward those who cultivated his land.
And you see, it’s a very typical list of sins for that culture where hospitality to strangers was one of the number one requirements.
Let me just say one more thing about the word prosperity because I kind of shot holes in what I call the prosperity gospel. The Bible clearly promises prosperity. Psalm 1:3:
“...whatever he does will prosper...”
To Joshua God said, “Then you will make your way prosperous and you will have good success.” And there are many, many other promises. What I want to suggest to you is American culture has perverted the meaning of the word prosperity and what we call prosperity is not what the Bible calls prosperity. The word prosperous comes from a Latin word, prosperous. One of the ways it’s frequently used in Latin is to describe a general who had conducted a successful campaign. He would return to Rome and it would say in Latin, re prospere justa, he has prosperously carried out his assignment. And so, if you want a biblical picture of prosperity it’s not the modern American view, with a Cadillac or a Mercedes, and a lot of money, fancy clothes and diamonds. Not that I’m against any of those things but it’s not prosperity in the Bible. Prosperity is successfully accomplishing your assigned task. Like the general who was sent out, defeated the enemy, added territory to the Roman Empire and returned, they said he has prosperously carried out his assignment. If you understand that, then you can begin to expect biblical prosperity if you meet the conditions.
You see, if the contemporary picture of prosperity were true, then Jesus and His apostles were the most awful failures. I mean, they did not prosper. Is that right?
After 31 we have 32, 33, 34, 35, 36 and 37. That’s six chapters from a young man named Elihu. Now young in those days was probably 50 or 60. This is something, I mean, the Bible just doesn’t tell you some things, it leaves you to think for yourself. Elihu was much younger than the other men and he said, “I really oughtn’t to be speaking but you’re all wrong and I want to straighten you out.” And, as I say, he gives six chapters. And the interesting thing is, and I’m not so sure I can explain it, is when God comments on everybody He totally ignores Elihu. I can’t help wondering how Elihu felt at the end of it. He must have been either sitting or standing, waiting what is God going to say about what I said? And the answer is God passed him over in total silence. I don’t know why.
But anyhow, we’re going to do the same! Not because I’m prejudiced against him but because we don’t have time.
So, chapter 38 is where we’re going to start. Now we come to the Lord who was present in a whirlwind. He answered Job direct. I think it must have been a somewhat frightening experience for all those people there when the whirlwind came up and who knows how it affected them. And then out of the whirlwind God Himself in person spoke to them. And the first thing He said—I’m going to paraphrase this—He spoke to Job and He said, “You’ve been talking about things you just don’t understand. Your words were absolutely out of place, irrelevant. But anyhow, I’ll help you.” Somebody said sometimes about people if they open their mouth they put their foot in it. If you should be one of those people, bear in mind the Lord still loves you and He’s got an answer for you. So I’m going to try and sum up what God said. It’s chapters 38, 39, 40 and 41.
This is my summation. God describes to Job and his friends how He runs the universe. Then He challenges Job and He said, “Do you want to take over the job?” That’s the essence of what He says. “Can you do a better job than I do of running the universe?” Then He goes into a lot of detail about what’s involved in running the universe. This is what He says in Job 38, beginning at verse 4 and going through the end of chapter 41. Here are some of the things that God deals with while He runs the universe. And there’s a long list, it’s rather interesting. He’s saying to Job all the time, “Could you handle this?” or “Could you handle that?” Verses 4–7, He says, “The creation of the earth, were you there?”; verses 8–11, He said, “Can you control the sea?”; verses 12–15, “Can you control the sunrise and the sunlight?”, especially in relationship to controlling the wicked. Then in verses 16–18 He says, “Do you know the dimensions of the earth and do you know the nether world [Hades and the abode of the dead]?”; verses 19–21, “What can you do about light and darkness?”; verses 22–30, “Can you control the elements, sun, the rain, the frost and the cold?”; in verses 31–35, “Can you control the constellations and the heavenly bodies?”; verses 34–38, “Can you control the rain and the snow, are they under your control? Do you know how to manage them?”
Then in chapter 38:39 through chapter 39 He speaks about a number of living creatures, all of whom He has His eye on. And the list is quite interesting. These are the following: lions, ravens, mountain goats, deer—with regard to the deer He says, “Do you know the time when they bring forth? Can you be a midwife to the deer? Can you count the months for them?”—the wild donkeys, the onager [which is another kind of donkey], the wild ox, the ostrich, the stork, the horse, the hawk and the eagle.
In Job 40:1–2, Job says in effect, “I give up.”
Then Job answered the Lord:
“Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer you? I lay my hand over my mouth. Once I have spoken, but I will not answer; yes, twice, but I will proceed no further.”
I render that, “Lord, I give up.”
But then the Lord goes on in chapter 40:6–14 and He says, which is very significant, “Can you take over dealing with the wicked?” I think I’ll read those verses. As I mediated on this and I thought about the appalling wickedness that is rampant in the earth today I said, “Thank God I don’t have to deal with it. This is what He says:
“Would you indeed annul my judgment? Would you condemn me that you may be justified? Have you an arm like God? Or can you thunder with a voice like His? Then adorn yourself with majesty and splendor, and array yourself with glory and beauty. Disperse the rage of your wrath; look on everyone who is proud, and humble him. Look on everyone who is proud, and bring him low; tread down the wicked in their place. Hide them in the dust together, bind their faces in hidden darkness. Then I will also confess to you that your own right and can save you.”
I think that’s a challenge to you and me. Can we deal with the wickedness that’s in the earth today? Do we know how to treat the wicked, do we know how to bring them into subjection? The answer is definitely no. I’m so thankful that God does. I’m prepared to leave the job to Him. I’m not willing to take that job over.