I recently read Micah 6. It is a wonderful passage on the difference between religion that wearies and saddens God and true religion, a vibrant relationship with God. As I was reading, a particular word caught my attention…redeemed. Micah 6:4 states,
“For I brought you up from the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of slavery…”
God’s redemption of His people Israel from the “house of slavery” provides great insight into the redemption we have in Christ Jesus and it provides correction to a very pervasive idea in Christianity today, namely that Christ suffered so we won’t have to. This idea forms the underpinnings for the so-called Prosperity Gospel, a destructive lie taught my many preachers and believed by many Christians.
Turn on nearly any tele-evangelist and you will hear this message of prosperity. Distorting passages that speak of abundant blessing to sooth the ears of those who think that God’s redemption provides you with an easy life full of the riches of the world, they prey on those without a solid foundation in Christ. They teach that you deserve to be wealthy, you deserve to have more, you deserve a life free of pain and discomfort.
One only needs to consider a few passages to see the lie of the prosperity preachers. John the Baptist, Jesus’ own messenger was imprisoned and beheaded. Hundreds of infants were slaughtered as King Herod tried to kill Jesus as a baby.
Even Jesus Christ himself, who loved perfectly and who revealed God in all his glorious perfection was murdered by the people He loved and who claimed to love Him. At his death, most who had previously followed Him, abandoned Him to the cross as they cried “crucify Him, crucify Him.”
The writer of Hebrews says this about God’s faithful servants,
…Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. 36 Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated-of whom the world was not worthy- wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised. Hebrews 11:35-39
Make no mistake. If you experience wealth and prosperity in this life, it does not necessarily mean you have done well in following Christ. Psalm 1 teaches us that the ones who are truly blessed are those who delight in the laws of God and meditate on His Word day and night (or continually). If you experience pain and suffering, it does not mean you have done poorly at following God. In fact, the very opposite might be true.
Jesus promises joy, abundant life, peace, provision, and victory over sin, along with many other blessings (Matthew 6:27-34, John 10:10, 15:11, Romans 8:37-39, Philippians 4:7). But the life that so many hope for and mistakenly believe is theirs now, is not offered until God’s redemption is complete and those who believe in Christ will dwell with Him forever in a re-created cosmos, a new heaven and a new earth. This eternal age will be when God’s redemption is fully brought forth. A time when no tear crosses the eye or fear strikes at the heart. A time when God’s vengeance corrects injustice, when peace reigns and prosperity finds its way to every person who enters into God’s eternal Kingdom (Isaiah 65:17-25, Romans 12:19, Revelation 21:4-5).
For now, we can learn from the redemption of the Israelites. Sure they were redeemed out of slavery and bondage, but it cost them dearly. Imagine their redemption as they found themselves pinned on the beach of the Red Sea between the swelling waves and the entire Egyptian army. Imagine their redemption as they ate quail and manna every days for years, having abandoned the gourmet and exotic foods of Egypt. Imagine their redemption as they watched loved ones die in battle as they sought to overtake the land promised them by God. If you think redemption comes easy, read the Bible. It is filled with stories of difficult redemption; frustrating, disappointing redemption.
The experience of the Israelites resonates with me. I have helplessly watched as surgeons opened the chest cavities of my two oldest daughters and repaired a faulty heart. I have spent countless, frustrated, unemployed hours looking for a job to support my family. I have endured horrible, incompetent managers. I have witnessed first-hand the atrocities of war and genocide. And all this AFTER I decided to journey with Christ.
You might ask, what’s the point? If God’s redemption through Jesus Christ does not bring us prosperity in this life, why even consider God?
Consider but a few chapters in the Bible. Psalm 65. Isaiah 65. Ephesians 1. Revelation 21. Our hope lies not in this momentary life…but in the perfect, eternal life we are offered because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This world will soon pass away and a glorious new earth will be created. God Himself will dwell with His creation. Prosperity will abound. Righteousness will be victorious. The scales of justice will not be tipped.
Don’t put your trust in the seen, but rather what is unseen. Fix your eyes on the risen Christ, seated on the throne. For it is only there that we find what is truly joy and truly hope.