The Power To Make Wealth
“You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who is giving you power to make wealth.”
These words were spoken by Moses to the second generation of Israelites who would enter the land promised to Abraham and his descendants. These words were God’s admonition for them to remember something of grave importance; something their parents had failed to remember. This phrase “power to make wealth” was what they needed to remember. It not only applied to the church in the wilderness — physical Israel — but it applies to spiritual Israel, the church today. Christians need to understand what this meant for physical Israel and what it means for spiritual Israel. Do you know what the phrase means?
Taken literally, one might conclude that God was going to give them wealth. That is not what God said. While physical prosperity was in their future, it would be their choice. God promised to give them power to make wealth. Elsewhere, this word “power” is translated “strength” or “might” (cf. Leviticus 26.20; Judges 16.6,30). In Leviticus 26.14-19, we find that Israel’s prosperity was dependent upon their compliance with the covenant terms: “But if you will not listen to me and will not do all these commandments, if you spurn my statutes, and if your soul abhors my rules, so that you will not do all my commandments, but break my covenant, then I will do this to you: I will visit you with panic, with wasting disease and fever tat consume the eyes and make the heart ache. And you shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it. I will set my face against you, and you shall be struck down before your enemies. Those who hate you shall rule over you, and you shall flee when none pursues you. And if in spite of this you will not listen to me, then I will discipline you again sevenfold for your sins, and I will break the pride of your power, and I will make your heavens like iron and your earth like bronze.”
The power (strength, might) that God gives comes as his word is heeded. God’s word is the power. Their obedience to it would ensure their wealth. But the wealth is not to be understood only in the physical sense. For example, the wealth of Ruth was not physical, but was “like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the house of Israel” (Ruth 4.11). So also, Israel’s wealth here in Deuteronomy 8.18 was spiritual wealth. As such, their control of the land of Canaan with its resources would be at their disposal, but their knowledge of God’s law would enable them to use these resources to promote justice and mercy. Without such power (knowledge), these vast resources would be used selfishly and ultimately be their ruin. Sadly, this his exactly what happened. As a result, God would chastise them in hopes that they would repent. A detailed account of this is found in Psalm 78.
That Israel’s obedience was the key to having this “power” (strength, might) to make wealth is further seen from the latter part of Deuteronomy 8.18. It says, “…that he may confirm his covenant which he swore to your fathers, as it is this day.” The next two verses of Deuteronomy 8 reveal what God had initially confirmed in the covenant. He had said, “It shall come about if you ever forget the Lord your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I testify against you today that you will surely perish. Like the nations that the Lord makes to perish before you, so syou shall perish; because you would not listen to the voice of the Lord your God.” A more detailed account of the covenant terms is found in Deuteronomy 28. Clearly their power to make wealth was dependent upon their obedience to the covenant.
What was true of Israel is true for Christians today. Our obedience to the gospel is our strength. It ensures that our influence upon society will be as stated in Deuteronomy 28.12-13: "The Lord will open to you his good treasury, the heavens, to give the rain to your land in its season and to bless all the work of your hands. And you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow. And the Lord will make you the head and not the tail, and you shall only go up and not down, if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you today, being careful to do them.”
That is the wealth that our obedience will achieve. God gives us the strength (power) to do this for this is our “whole duty” (Ecclesiastes 12.13). Help in time of need is his promise. Do we trust him to provide? Will we wait on the Lord?