“O LORD, I beseech thee, let now thine ear be attentive to the prayer of thy servant . . . and prosper, I pray thee, thy servant this day” (Nehemiah 1:11).

Prosperity is a word that interests many these days. As the standard of living spirals upward, Christians are sometimes told that God expects them to accumulate things in proportion to what the world calls “prosperity.” As always, however, the world has a cheap imitation of that which God has for His children.

Joseph prospered! Joshua prospered! David prospered! and King Hezekiah prospered! But their prosperity was only related to their wisdom. When Joseph was in Potiphar’s house and in prison, “the LORD made all that he did to prosper in his hand” (Genesis 39:3,23). But according to the world’s standards, Joseph did not own anything at that time. The Lord said of King Hezekiah, there “was none like him among all the kings of Judah. . . . For he clave to the LORD, and departed not from following Him, but kept His commandments” (II Kings 18:5,6).

If we look closely at the Hebrew word sakal, translated “prosper,” we see why prosperity is so closely connected to the commandments. The highlighted words in the following verses have been translated from sakal: “I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go” (Psalm 32:8). “The heart of the wise teacheth his mouth” (Proverbs 16:23). “The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God” (Psalm 14:2). “Let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me . . .” (Jeremiah 9:24). Prosperity is not a large bank account or sound investments; it is living near the heart of God, walking in the ways of the one who created us. This brings prosperity because it is in alliance with the master’s plan. CJH

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