Thursday, May 03, 2007

Psalm 51: The Gospel of Prosperity

It is an interesting way to conclude a prayer of humble confession.

"In your good pleasure make
Zion prosper;
build up the walls of
Jerusalem.
Then there will be righteous
sacrifices,
whole burnt offerings to
delight you;
the bulls will be offered
on your altar." (verses 18 and 19)

Yes, this prayer of confession really does end with a prayer for prosperity. David is so bold as to not only ask God for mercy, but to also ask God that he would bless him and not only him, but all of Israel! You may think, "Hasn't this man learned his lesson? After all of this, hasn't he learned what is really important?" But we need to look at this final piece of David's prayer again and this time more closely.

What David is requesting is completely different from the modern "health and wealth gospel" prayers for prosperity. Those prayers for prosperity have one fatal flaw in them. They are prayers for prosperity for the purpose of the delight of the person praying the prayer. Not so with David. He has lived a little self-focused life. He has now been caught up in the call to live large, that is, for a kingdom greater than his own. This prayer is evidence that he's learned the lesson of the danger of living for his own delight. This prayer for prosperity is the result of a radically changed heart.

Why does David pray for prosperity? For one reason, the glory and delight of the Lord. When God prospers people who are no longer living for their own little kingdoms, but are living for his, the result is the furtherance of his kingdom purposes on earth, which results in his glory. Give wisdom to a man who is living for God's kingdom and he'll use that wisdom to advance God's kingdom. Give money to a man who loves God's kingdom and he'll look for ways to invest that money in kingdom causes. Give a house to a person who seeks God's kingdom and his house will be a place of hospitality, love, and ministry. David prays for prosperity, not for his glory, but for the glory of the Lord to whom his heart has now turned.

But there's more. When people are blessed by the Lord they turn to him in humble, sacrificial worship. It's in those moments when I am cogently aware of God's forgiveness and gratefully aware of his undeserved blessing that I willingly offer to him what I would have once held to tightly. God delights in the sacrifices of his people, because when they are worshipping him in this way, they are doing the thing for which they were created. When I've quit looking for satisfaction in the created world and begin to find my satisfaction in the Lord, then I'm willing to hold loosely to the things that once held me. It's here that my delight is the Lord's delight.

So is it right to pray for prosperity? It is and you should. But not for the sake of your kingdom, but for the success of his. Not for the sake of your delight, but for his. You see, when God prospers people who are living for him, they use that blessing to serve him all the more, and for this he gets glory and in this he finds great delight!

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