Promises of prosperity according to the Old Testament : a theological-ethical study

Pickering, Jordan Stuart Murray (2013-03)

Thesis (MTh)--Stellenbosch University, 2013.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Prosperity is an important theme in scripture and there is great diversity of perspectives regarding the place of wealth in the life of God’s people. This diversity is reflected in the variety of theological responses to wealth in the church, but the importance of this subject is not reflected in scholarship. Attempts to develop a positive theology of prosperity that does justice to the biblical data are surprisingly rare. There is a need for a careful biblical theology of prosperity. This study aims to lay the foundation of a fuller biblical theology, showing that conflicting biblical views of blessing, prosperity, and wealth can be unified if proper attention is given to certain roles, namely: blessing belongs within a God-man relationship defined by His grace and our dependence; the Promised Land is the exclusive environment in which blessing is promised; and blessing is not given mechanically while sin threatens, but rather the relationship must be forged through testing. This study is only the beginning of a biblical theology of prosperity, examining these roles by means of careful exegesis of four key chapters in the Old Testament from a range of bodies of literature. Firstly, the study of Genesis 12 shows that blessing is graciously offered to Abram as God’s response to the curse that accumulates through Genesis 1-11, and that blessing is intended to extend to the whole world. The blessings are based on a new God-man relationship into which Abram is called, but Abram immediately experiences the complexity of that relationship: though he acts faithfully, he meets with testing rather than prosperity, and this prompts his dependence upon God to falter. Deuteronomy 6 emphasises that covenant faithfulness is the guardian of the God-man relationship in which blessing is found. However, covenant-keeping does not merit favour; the chapter puts undeserved redemption from Egypt – grace – at its centre as the motivation of obedience. Jeremiah 32 is set in the midst of God’s enactment of curses that were promised for disobedience. However, out of the nation’s hopelessness, God speaks words of grace, consolation and New Covenant, a covenant in which hearts will not forget YHWH and blessing can be given unreservedly. Finally, Psalm 128 connects wisdom language (showing that fear of YHWH is the wise way of life that brings prosperity) with priestly blessing language (focusing the eyes of the blessed on the Giver). While God prospers those who fear Him, prosperity always operates within a complex relationship of grace and dependence.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Voorspoed is ‘n belangrike tema in die Bybel en daar is ‘n groot verskeidenheid perspektiewe op die plek wat rykdom in die lewe van die volk van God inneem. Hierdie diversiteit word gereflekteer in die verskeidenheid van teologiese reaksies op rykdom in die kerk, maar die belang van hierdie onderwerp word nie in huidige navorsing gereflekteer nie. Pogings om ‘n positiewe voorspoedsteologie te ontwikkel wat reg laat geskied aan die Bybelse gegewens is verbasend skaars. Daar is ‘n behoefte aan ‘n noukeurige Bybelse voorspoedsteologie. Hierdie studie beoog om die grondslag te lê vir ‘n meer omvattende Bybelse teologie, wat reg laat geskied aan die teenstrydige Bybelse beskouings oor seëning, voorspoed en rykdom deur behoorlike aandag te skenk aan bepaalde verhoudings: seëning vorm deel van ‘n God-mens verhouding wat gedefinieer word deur God se genade en die mens se afhanklikheid; die Beloofde Land is die eksklusiewe omgewing waarbinne seëning beloof word; en seëning word nie outomaties verskaf wanneer sonde dreig nie, maar dit vorm deel van ‘n verhouding wat deur beproewing gelouter is. Die studie is slegs die begin van ‘n Bybelse voorspoedsteologie, waarvolgens die verskillende verhoudings deur middel van noukeurige eksegese van vier sleutelhoofstukke in die Ou Testament plaasvind. Ten eerste, die studie van Genesis 12 toon dat seëning vanuit genade aan Abraham deur God geskenk word as ‘n reaksie op die vervloeking wat in Genesis 1-11 opgebou het, en dat die seëning bedoel was om na die hele wêreld uit te brei. Die seëninge word gebaseer op ‘n nuwe verhouding tussen God en mens waartoe Abram geroep is, maar dat Abram onmiddelik die ingewikkeldheid van die verhouding beleef: hoewel hy gelowig optree, ervaar hy meer beproewing as voorspoed, en dit gee aanleiding dat sy afhanklikheid van God begin wankel. Vervolgens, Deuteronomium 6 beklemtoon dat getrouheid aan die verbond die verhouding tussen God-en-mens bewaar te midde waarvan die seëning gevind word. Tog, word die hou van die verbond nie ‘n manier om guns te verdien nie; die betrokke hoofstuk plaas die onverdiende en genadige verlossing vanuit Egipte in die sentrum van die motivering van gehoorsaamheid. Jeremia 32 word geplaas in die midde van God se uitvoering van vervloeking wat beloof was in reaksie op ongehoorsaamheid. Tog, te midde van die volk se gebrek aan hoop, spreek God sy woorde van genade, troos en ‘n Nuwe Verbond, ‘n verbond waarbinne JHWH nie vergeet sal word nie en waar seëning sonder voorbehoud geskenk kan word. Ten slotte, Psalm 128 lê ‘n verband tussen wysheidsuitsprake (wat aantoon dat die vrees van JHWH die verstandige lewenswyse is wat tot voorspoed lei) en priesterlike seëning bewerkstellig (wat die fokus van die geseënde op God as Gewer rig). Hoewel God voorspoed skenk aan die wie Hom vrees, funksioneer voorspoed altyd binne die komplekse verhouding van genade en afhanklikheid.

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