A Prosperous New Year
This is our desire both for our readers and for ourselves. But the mere wishing or desiring of it, will not bring the same to pass. What more is necessary? Only God can grant us prosperity either spiritual or temporal, and we must submit to his good pleasure. True—but He is not capricious in this. Prosperity or the absence of it is not a matter of chance thing, nor is it the product of a blind and inexorable fate. If we do not enjoy prosperity, the fault is entirely our own, and we are dishonest if we ascribe it solely unto the sovereignty of God. "In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it" (Isaiah 30:15). Would it not have been flagrantly dishonest, if they attributed their disquietude and fears, to the sovereign will of God? "O that you had hearkened to My commandments! then had your peace been as a river" (Isaiah 48:18), then how wicked to charge God with being responsible for their lack of peace.
If we consult the Scriptures, we shall find definite teaching on this subject—that there are clearly-revealed laws which we must observe, conditions which we are required to meet—if we are to enjoy prosperity. Let us first consider one or two things which hinder prosperity. "Why do you disobey the Lord's commands? You will not prosper. Because you have forsaken the Lord—he has forsaken you." (2 Chron. 24:20). Ah, here is the cause of all our troubles: disobedience, for "the way of transgressors is hard" (Proverbs 13:15).
Observe how emphatically and absolutely it is expressed, "you will not prosper"—a holy God will not place a premium on insubordination. He may allow "the wicked" to flourish as a green bay tree, for he is like a beast being fattened for the slaughter; but not so with those who profess His name. Disobedience, then, chokes the channel of blessing. "He who covers his sins shall not prosper" (Proverbs 28:13). Unconfessed sin in the heart of a believer is like a worm at the root of prosperity. "If I regard iniquity in my heart—the Lord will not hear me" (Psalm 66:18), prayer is then futile. Unless we keep short accounts with God—we shall not enjoy His smile. Jeremiah 10:21 tells us what prevents "pastors" from prospering—self-sufficiency, failing to be cast entirely upon the Lord.
"Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful" (Josh. 1:8). Here is the positive side, the making known the conditions which regulate and determine prosperity, as the repeated "then" plainly intimates. The passage begins at verse 5, and the whole of verses 5-8 should be attentively weighed.
Let us first anticipate an objection by asking the question "was it written for his sake alone" (Romans 4:23)? Undoubtedly those words had a special reference to Joshua himself—yet that they have a wider bearing is clear from other passages, and that they have a general application to God's children today—is definitely established by the New Testament. But as some of our readers have come under the influence of those who would rob the Christian of his rightful portion, under the pretext of "rightly dividing the Word of Truth," we must labor the point.
Note then how unhesitatingly David appropriated these words of the Lord to Joshua when he spoke to his son, for he emphatically assured him that if Divine grace enabled him to "keep the Law of the Lord his God" taking heed to "fulfill the statutes and judgments" of it, "then shall you prosper" (1 Chron. 22:12,13). But more pertinently still, observe how the apostle expressly appropriates the promise of Joshua 1:5, "I will never leave you nor forsake you" and insists that it belongs equally to the whole household of faith, immediately adding "so that we may boldly say, The Lord is my Helper" (Heb. 13:5,6). That precious promise of God, then, belongs as truly to me—as it did to Joshua of old. Are not the needs of believers the same in one age as in another? Is not God affected alike unto all of His children—does He not bear to them the same love? If He would not desert Joshua—He will not desert you! Consequently, if I would ascertain the laws which will determine my prosperity, I must pay attention to those which regulated his.
"Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth." It was the Rule given to act by. In Joshua's case, it furnished him with Divine authority for his conduct in the governing of Israel. In our case, we may give these words a spiritual meaning. God's Word is our appointed food—thus the "mouth" speaks to us of feeding upon it. In verse 6 God says, "Be strong and of a good courage," and in verse 7 adds, "only be strong and very courageous that [in order that] you may observe to do according to all the Law." Obedience to God—calls for firmness, resolution, boldness. Without it we shall yield unto temptations to compromise, being intimidated by the ridicule and opposition of our fellows. How, then, is this strength and courage to be obtained? By feeding on the Word, being "nourished up in the words of faith" (1 Tim. 4:6), having the Law of the Lord continually in our "mouth." This is the interpretation made by the apostle; appropriate that promise "I will never leave you" and then, says he, every believer may confidently declare "The Lord is my Helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me" (Heb. 13:6). There is the proof that feeding on the Word imparts strength and courage.
"But you shall meditate on it day and night." Only thus will its injunctions be fixed in the memory—only thus shall we be able to ascertain our duty—only thus shall we discern the rightful application of the Divine precepts to all the varied details of our daily lives. It is entirely our own fault, if we be ignorant of God's "mind" in connection with any situation confronting us. God's will for us is revealed in His Word, and "a good understanding have all those who obey His commandments" (Psalm 111:10). The more I am regulated by the Divine Rule, the more shall I be preserved from the "mistakes" or folly which characterizes those who follow a course of self-pleasing. But in order to do God's commandments, I must be conversant with them; and in order to perceive their breadth and specific application unto any problem or decision confronting me, I must "meditate on it day and night." Meditation stands to reading—as mastication does to eating. Spiritual prosperity eludes the dilatory and careless.
"That you may be careful to do everything written in it." This must be the dominating motive and object. God's Word is to be appropriated and masticated—fed and meditated upon—first and foremost, day in and day out. Not for the purpose of understanding its prophecies, or obtaining an insight into its mysteries—but in order to learn God's will for myself, and having learned it—to conform thereto. God's Word is given to us chiefly—not to gratify curiosity or to entertain our imagination—but as "a lamp to our feet and a light unto our path" (Psalm 119:105) in this dark world. It is a Rule for us to walk by—it is a heavenly standard for the regulation of all our conduct. It points out the things to be avoided, the things which would harm us. It tells of the things to be followed and practiced, the things which are for our good, our peace. It contains not only good advice—but is clothed with Divine authority, commanding implicit and unqualified obedience.
"For then—(if we feed on the Word, if we constantly meditate upon its precepts and promises, if we render to it entire obedience) —you will be prosperous and successful." The promise is emphatic, unqualified, sure. If then this new year is not a prosperous one for me—the fault is entirely my own—it will be because I have failed to meet the conditions prescribed in the context. Turn to 2 Chronicles 20:20 and see how well Jehoshaphat understood the secret of prosperity. Mark what occasioned the prosperity of Hezekiah (2 Chron. 31:20,21). Compare Job 36:11. Ponder all that precedes the last clause of Psalm 1:3. "But whoever looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues therein, he being not a forgetful hearer—but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed" (James 1:25).