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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Voice of the Martyrs

If you've been studying 1 Peter with us you are probably aware that the recipients of the letter are facing hostility and persecution. Living in North America we can forget that Christianity is still under attack and believers worldwide are facing persecution that sometimes costs them their lives.

The Voice of the Martyrs is an organization that is keenly aware of current day persecution. Part of their ministry exists to remind the church that brothers and sisters in Christ are suffering for their faith. For example, just this month they reported that Moroccan military authorities raided a Christian meeting and arrested 18 people. The authorities also confiscated Bibles and personal belongings. You can read about this story and others here.

As you read, thank God for our freedoms here and for the strength of our brothers and sisters everywhere who suffer for our Lord.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Cutting Room Floor: Lord of All the Earth - Joshua 3:11

In our passage last Sunday, the text took a swipe at the polytheistic religion of the Canaanites and made an assertion of Yahweh’s supremacy over all flesh.  It was very subtle, but there nonetheless.
I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that the Canaanites were polytheists – they believed in the existence of many gods, and even worshiped many gods.  One key thing to keep in mind is that these gods were believed to be territorial.  A god was sovereign, or lord, over each particular geographical area, with other lesser gods under them.
You may have noticed references in the Bible to a false god named Baal.  Well, there wasn’t just one Baal, there were many.  Numbers 25 tells of the Israelites engaging in the sinful worship of Baal of Peor.  Israel was camping in Shittim at the time and Mount Peor was just south of there, so essentially they were worshiping the local god (along with other lesser gods in the area).
There are multiple references in the book of Judges to Israel’s worship of the Baals (Jdg 2:11, 13; 3:7; 8:33; 10:6, 10).  Why multiple Baals?  Because there were multiple places.  Sometimes Baals were known by their place of rule, and sometimes a location was known by the Baal who reigned there: Baal-berith (Jdg 8:33), Baal-hermon (Jdg 3:3), Baal-meon (1Ch 5:8), Baal-perazim (2Sam 5:20), etc. 
These Baals were considered sovereign in that they owned the land and the people over which they ruled.  They were entitled to worship and tribute.  They also had power over the weather – much Baal worship consisted of rites intended to entice the local Baal to send rain. 
So what does all that have to do with what we read in Joshua 3?  Well, remember that when we see “LORD” in all caps in our Bible, it is the traditional translation for the name “Yahweh.”  (Why they don’t just translate it “Yahweh” is a story for another time.)  Up until Joshua 3:11, every use of “LORD” has been in all caps.  But in 3:11, for the first time in the book, we find “Lord” – one cap and the rest lower case.  This is the English translation of the Hebrew word “adon”, which actually means “lord” or “master.”
So translated another way, Josh 3:11 reads, “Behold, the ark of the covenant of the Master of all the earth is passing over before you into the Jordan.”  It comes up again in v13, “…the ark of the LORD, the Master of all the earth…”  This is an explicit statement of Yahweh’s lordship, or ownership and authority over all the earth. 
You see, our God is territorial, too.  It’s just that His territory extends to all of creation.  This helps us to understand why God has the right to do what He is planning to do with the Canaan land.  In 3:10, Joshua tells the Israelites that Yahweh “will without fail drive out from before you the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Hivites, the Perizzites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, and the Jebusites.”  How is it that God can take the land away from these people and give it to the Israelites?  The Canaanites don’t own the land and neither do their gods.  God is the Lord of ALL the earth and in driving out the inhabitants, He is not just driving out pagans, but He is also driving out their gods, a dramatic repudiation of these supposed local sovereigns. 
In going before the people into the Jordan and stopping the flowing of the river, this Lord of all the earth was sending several messages to the inhabitants of the land.  He was staking His rightful claim to the land; He was establishing Himself as sovereign over nature; and He was showing Himself to be the One True God over all flesh. 
Though we may not recognize it, we can tend toward polytheism, too.  We compartmentalize our lives, recognizing God’s lordship over some areas, but serving our own man-made gods in other areas.  We don’t serve Baal-berith or Baal-peor today, but what about Baal-lust, Baal-greed, or Baal-gluttony?  All of us at one time or another have given these gods, and others like them, an illegitimate claim in our lives.  But God will not be denied what is rightfully His.  We would be wise to drive out the little gods now, rather than waiting for God to take dramatic action to assert His lordship.  After all, He is Lord of all, not Lord of some.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Cutting Room Floor: Rahab's Ruse (Josh 2:4-5)

(If you did not hear the sermon from Sunday, you can read the passage covered here, or listen to the sermon here.)
One thing cannot be denied about Rahab in Joshua 2: she lied.  Even though she had hidden the Israelite spies on her roof, she told the king’s messengers, "True, the men came to me, but I did not know where they were from.  And when the gate was about to be closed at dark, the men went out. I do not know where the men went. Pursue them quickly, for you will overtake them."
So what are we to make of this?  The passage presents Rahab as a model of faith, an interpretation corroborated by the New Testament (Heb 11:31; Jas 2:25).  The Lord used her actions to preserve the lives of the spies and to assure Israel that Yahweh had indeed given them the land and victory over their enemies.  And yet, that preservation was based on a lie. 
There are three main ways that Christian ethicists have tried to deal with this.  The first position is called “conflicting absolutes.”  This can also be described with the old phrase “the lesser of two evils.”  This position argues that in a sinful world, there will occasionally be circumstances that require one to commit the lesser of two sins.  Rahab had the option of lying to the king’s men, or compromising the lives of the spies.  Lying, a real sin for which Rahab needed to seek forgiveness, was more desirable than giving up the lives of the spies. 
The second position is called “graded absolutism,” which argues that there is a hierarchy of absolutes, so that some have priority over others.  When two absolutes conflict, making it impossible to obey both, one should choose the greater good and is exempted from the lower absolute.  In such circumstances, an action that would normally be considered a sin is not a sin.  In Rahab’s case, saving the lives of the spies was a greater good than telling the truth.  Therefore she did not sin in telling a lie since she was exempted from it by the higher good of preserving life. 
The third position is called “nonconflicting absolutes”.  According to this argument, in any set of circumstances, absolutes that seem to conflict really do not.  Absolutes are absolutes and God does subordinate some to others.  He expects us to keep them all.  In situations where two absolutes seem to conflict, one should look for a “third way” which avoids sin.  After all, 1 Cor 10:13 tells us that No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.  Therefore, Rahab should not have lied, but should have looked for another way to avoid deception while also providing safety for the spies. 
So which position should we hold?  There are strong theologians and ethicists on every side.  My preference is the third option, however I believe that to probe this too deeply is the abuse the text and to draw inferences from it that were not intended to be the point of the story.  
My inclination is not to take the story beyond the point of the text.  Certainly, it cannot be denied that Rahab lied.  However, the point of the story was not to make an ethical case that lying is okay in certain circumstances, nor that Rahab did the wrong thing.  The point of the story was her example of faith, as the New Testament attests.  Careful reading though will show that both New Testament references to this story do not commend her for lying.  Heb 11:31: By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.  Here she is commended for her hospitality to the Israelite strangers.  James 2:25: And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way?  Here she is commended for giving the spies lodging and by sending them west away from where the pursuers were looking for them.  Neither reference commends the lie.  In fact, neither reference even broaches the subject of the lie.  Why?  Because the lie was not intended to be the point of the story.  Both New Testament reference show that the main point of the story is Rahab’s faith in God.
Scripture’s silence on Rahab’s lie should not be taken as an endorsement of it.  This Old Testament narrative is descriptive, not prescriptive.  In other words, the text is describing a story in order to make a theological point.  It is not intended to be a primer for ethical decision-making.  We should take from this passage neither that sin is sometimes inevitable, nor that sometimes lying is okay.  This passage is not intended to address that ethical issue, therefore we should not try to force it to. 
We have plenty of other texts that are meant to steer our ethical decision-making.  We know that lying is a sin (Eph 4:25; Col 3:9), and we are never forced to sin – God promises to provide a way of escape (1 Cor 10:13).  We should strive to interpret various texts according to their proper genres and purposes, letting each text make its own point and not forcing it to address something for which it was not intended.

Some will still say, "Okay, the lie wasn't the point of the story, but that doesn't change the fact that she did lie and God did use that lie." I willingly admit that my explanation above will not satisfy this objection, but there is an element of mystery here with which we need to try to be comfortable.  Joshua 2 is certainly not the only place in Scripture where God is seen using deception by a moral agent to accomplish His plan (Ex 1:15-21; 1 Sam 16:2; 1 Kings 22:19-23; 2 Thess 2:11-12).  God meticulously controls and uses evil, yet the Bible everywhere affirms the moral purity of God.  We shouldn't ignore such things, but rather humbly acknowledge that His ways are higher than our ways, and we are incapable of comprehending the Incomprehensible (Rom 11:33-36).

Posted by Greg Birdwell

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Biblical Forgiveness

In my sermon on January 31, I made an impromptu statement that we are to forgive someone only after they have repented and asked for forgiveness.  Those folks who have been with us from the beginning most likely were not taken aback by that, since I preached a message on that issue when we covered Ephesians 4:32 a little over one year ago.  However, our numbers have doubled since then and I’d like to take the opportunity here to give a more detailed explanation for our newer family. 
For a long time, the modern church has taught a very self-centered view of forgiveness.  Most often you will hear forgiveness taught or described primarily as a benefit to the one offended.  “You let go of your animosity, your bitterness, your right to retaliate so that you can enjoy a sense of freedom from those things.  Those things are weighing you down and you need to release those for your own good.”  In that teaching, whether it is explicitly stated or not, forgiveness is about the forgiver.   
The problem with that is that God’s forgiveness is to be the pattern for our forgiveness.  Paul writes in Eph 4:32, Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.  If we are going to forgive as God forgives, we need to know how and when He forgives. 
First, is God’s forgiveness a self-centered forgiveness that primarily benefits Him?  Never in Scripture do we find God being portrayed as the primary beneficiary of His own acts of forgiveness.  Rather, those whom He has forgiven are the beneficiaries, so that His forgiveness is a completely selfless act.  But if we forgive, seeing it as primarily benefitting us, not only have we made unforgiveness self-centered, but we have made forgiveness self-centered.   
Jay Adams, who is one of the pioneers of the biblical counseling movement, says it very well, “Forgiveness is primarily for the sake of the offender and, secondarily, to reestablish proper relationships; only as a by-product does it benefit the one who forgives…. Love impels us, like God, to do all we can to bring the wrongdoer to repentance and reconciliation—for his sake.”  As God’s forgiveness is for the benefit of the one forgiven, so ours should be also. 
So what is forgiveness?  Remember, God is to be our pattern, so we answer that question by discovering what God does when He forgives.  According to Isaiah 43:25 and Jeremiah 31:34, when God forgives sins, He promises to remember them no more.  Therefore, that is what it means for us to forgive.  Now, not remembering doesn’t mean we scrub it from our memory.  What it means is I will not bring that sin up to you or anyone else in the future.  I will never use that sin against you.  I will never dwell on that sin.  It’s in the past, and it stays there.
This is not at all the popular conception of forgiveness.  Because we have viewed it from a self-centered perspective for so long, we have equated forgiveness with getting rid of our bitterness and anger.  But biblical forgiveness is not about me getting rid of my junk toward someone else.  That becomes clear if we look at Eph 4:32 in its context.  The previous verse says, Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.  It is after that that the exhortation to forgive comes.  In other words, putting away all bitterness and anger should take place before the act of forgiveness.  Putting away the bitterness and anger is not synonymous with forgiveness.  They are two different acts. 
Now, if you hold the popular view of forgiveness, that it is synonymous with releasing your anger and bitterness, then it would make perfect sense that you would be taken aback by my statement a couple of weeks ago.  Most Christians today would have thought that I meant, “We are not to release our anger and bitterness until that person has repented and asked for forgiveness.”  Let me be clear: All bitterness and anger over how someone has sinned against me is to be dealt with in short order.  In that same Ephesians passage, v26b says, do not let the sun go down on your anger.  If I am harboring any anger or bitterness towards someone, I myself am sinning and I should repent and ask the Lord’s forgiveness.
Withholding forgiveness does not mean harboring bitterness and anger.  It means withholding the promise not to bring that sin to the offender’s attention or not to bring that sin to the attention of others.  [I know that sounds really loaded, but please hang in there.] 
That begs the question, “If we are to deal with our anger and bitterness in short order, at what point are we to forgive, that is, at what point are we to promise that we will not bring that sin up?” 
If God’s forgiveness is to be our pattern, then the above question can be answered with a question, “When does God forgive?”  1 John 1:9 tells us, If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  We may not like how this sounds, but biblically, we cannot deny it: God’s forgiveness is conditional.  His forgiveness is conditioned upon confession and repentance. 
God does not forgive unconditionally.  If He did, there would be universal salvation.  There would be no need for confession, repentance, and faith.  All would be saved, everyone would go to heaven, and no one would go to hell.  But we know biblically that that cannot be the case.
If that is to be our model, then our forgiveness should be conditioned upon confession and repentance also.  Now, it might be natural to think, “Isn’t there a qualitative difference between God’s forgiveness and my forgiveness?  God’s forgiveness removes from me the stain of sin and the penalty of sin, but my forgiveness doesn’t do the same thing.  So isn’t it going too far to say that because God forgives conditionally, that I should forgive conditionally?”
That is a reasonable objection until we come across Luke 17:3-4.  There Jesus says, “Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, 'I repent,' you must forgive him."  There simply is no way around this text.  Jesus here is commanding conditional forgiveness. 
A further objection: “What about all the places in the Bible – including Eph 4:32 – where we are commanded to forgive without any mention of repentance being a condition?”  There are two responses to this.  (1) If we have a biblical definition of forgiveness, that is, that it is conditional (as God’s is [2 Chron 7:14; 1 John 1:9] and as Jesus teaches in Luke 17:3-4), then the condition of repentance is understood.  (2) A key principle in interpreting Scripture with Scripture is that more restrictive passages should be used to understand less restrictive passages.  In other words, a less restrictive passage cannot be used to nullify the restriction in another passage.  All of the passages in the Bible without the repentance condition cannot make the condition disappear from Luke 17:3-4.  The other passages must be interpreted in light of it.
And here is why this is so important and why it is unloving to forgive unconditionally: when I forgive unconditionally, making the promise not to bring up that sin to the offender or to other people before he has repented, I am then unable to obey Matthew 18:15-17, which says, "If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”
Unconditional forgiveness denies the possibility of biblical confrontation and church discipline because I will have promised not to bring the sin up to the offender and not to bring up the sin to others, both of which are commanded at the different stages of the process of church discipline.  I will have allowed that person to remain in a broken relationship not just with me, but with God.  If I love that person, I need the ability to confront them and, if necessary, tell others about that sin, so that the offender might be restored and reconciled with man and God.  Conditional forgiveness is not only biblical, it is more loving than unconditional forgiveness.  It seeks restoration and reconciliation for the other person, not freedom for me.
For those who have not repented and sought forgiveness, we are to seek them for the purpose of restoring them, having already rid ourselves of any bitterness or anger against them.  We are to seek them out of love for them. 

Posted by Greg Birdwell

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Upcoming Sunday School Series: 1 Peter

On February 14, we will be starting a new series in the adult Sunday School class – an inductive study of 1 Peter.  The primary purpose for this study will be to gain an understanding of the message of 1 Peter and to apply it in practical ways to our lives. 
A secondary (but very important) purpose will be to become familiar with the process of studying the Bible.  One common reason that people do not study the Bible is that they do not know how.  I’m convinced that the responsibility for this lies predominantly with the shepherds of the church.  It is much easier to just tell the congregation what a passage means than to teach them to study for themselves.  However, love should motivate pastors and teachers to do the best thing, not the easy thing.  So rather than just giving you a fish, I’m going to try to teach you to fish.
So this ain’t your mama’s Sunday School series.  My prayer is that you will take seriously the importance of studying the Bible and use this opportunity wisely to learn to do so.  Ideally, we will all study the same passage each week and come together on Sunday morning to discuss the passage.  This discussion will be far more beneficial to all if we all come to the class with a good familiarity with the verses and themes to be covered.  If you’ll spend some time each week preparing, when we’re done I believe you will have not only a better understanding of how to study, but also a renewed sense of the depth and value of God’s Word and what obedience the book of 1 Peter requires of you.
In any study of the Bible, we should have four goals, to be tackled in the following order:
1.     Observe the text.  Here, we answer the question, “What does the text say?”
2.     Interpret the text.  “What does the text mean by what it says?”
3.     Apply the text.  “What does the text require of me?”
4.     Obey the text.  “What practical steps do I need to take to be in obedience to the text?”

The temptation for most of us will be to start right away digging into verse1 of chapter1.  However, if we do that, we run a good risk of missing the forest for the trees.  Much error can be avoided if we start out with a good overview of the book.  So, our first week or two will be dedicated to doing an overview 1 Peter.  We need to know the shape and contours of the forest before looking at individual trees.  Context is so important that the individual passages in the book simply cannot be understood without knowing what comes before and after. 
The first step in doing an overview is simply to read the book repetitively, beginning to end.  The book is only 5 chapters and can easily be read in one sitting.  I am a relatively slow reader and it takes me about 13 minutes to read the whole book.  If you can find 10-15 minutes a day to read 1 Peter in its entirety, having read the book 7 or so times before we start the series on February 14, you should have a good feel for the general content.
After reading through the text a couple of times, you can start reading it looking for specific things.  I mentioned earlier that Bible study involves observing and asking questions of the text.  Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?  Who is writing?  What is happening?  When was this written? Why was it written?  How is this accomplished?  Asking these questions will help you to develop a good basic understanding of the book. 
Here are the main things about which we want to inquire as we read:
1. Author – What can we learn about the author.  Of course, we know that Peter wrote the book, but does he say anything about himself in the book (look for 1st person pronouns – I, me, my)?  Can we glean anything from the text about his circumstances or why he is writing the book?
2. Recipients – Who are they?  Where are they?  What are their circumstances?  The circumstances of the author and recipients of an epistle will be valuable clues to the purpose and themes of the book.  What do you learn about them?
(It will be helpful to read with pen and paper in hand.  Begin jotting down things that you learn about the author and recipients.  You can also make a list of questions that you have about the text.)
3. Key words – After reading the text a few times, you will start to notice words that are used repeatedly in the book.  What are they? Make a list of these.  You can even mark them in a distinctive way in your Bible, if you like.  Write down everything you learn about these key words.  The reason we look for key words is because words represent subject matter.  These subjects lead us to the main themes. 
4. Themes – What seems to be the key content in the book?  What issues are addressed?  What exhortations are made?  What rebukes?  You can make a list of these as well.
Our goal at the end of the overview is to be able to answer in one short sentence what the book is about.  It is time-consuming hard work, but what a treasure to become more familiar with the text of God’s Word and be changed by it.
You will benefit from this study in direct proportion to how much time you spend studying.  If you can’t study at all, just try to read it once or twice before the 14th.  You’ll still benefit from the study and insight of others.  But if you can, turn off the TV and spend some time digging.  You’ll be glad you did.
Posted by Greg Birdwell

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Cutting Room Floor: Joshua 1:8

Part of the process of preparing a sermon is deciding what to leave out and what to keep.  God’s Word is so rich that diligent study inevitably leads to more material than can be crammed into a 40-50 minute exposition of a text.   Often, good stuff is left on the cutting room floor.
So I’m starting a new blog series expounding some of the good things that did not make the cut in the previous Sunday sermon.  Some weeks there may not be anything, some weeks several things.  We’ll see.
This time I’d like to take a closer look at Josh 1:8: This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it.  For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.
This is a very familiar verse to many of us, often memorized and quoted.  However, there is much confusion concerning the last part of the verse.  Many in the church use this verse to support a prosperity gospel, that is, that God grants health and material prosperity to those who find favor with Him.   It is argued that since the context indicates that the prosperity and success mentioned in Josh 1:8 refers to the taking of the Canaan land – physical real estate, a land flowing with milk and honey – the truth to be applied to our lives today is that if you stick to God’s Word and are careful to obey, God will bless you with material wealth.
Conversely, if you are struggling financially or are in poor health, you can know that you are living in disobedience or have a lack of faith.  Thus, your health and wealth become barometers for your spiritual condition.
Unfortunately, most of the figures we see on religious television espouse this teaching.  Indeed, it is the backbone of their ministries, the primary source of their funding.  “Plant a seed of faith by sending a donation to this ministry and the Lord will turn that seed into a harvest of plenty for you.” 
However, the fact that the charlatans on TV use such passages as vehicles for their own greed does not in itself mean the interpretation is wrong.  Truth spoken by heretics is still truth.  We need to look to the text itself, comparing Scripture with Scripture, to know whether this interpretation is valid.  Does Josh 1:8 promise that Christians will enjoy good health or prosper materially as long as they are closely following God’s Word?  There are several reasons to say, "no."
First, such an interpretation would seem to clash demonstrably with the teaching of the book of Job.  In the very two chapters, God Himself describes Job as “a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil” (Job 1:8; 2:3).  It would be difficult to achieve a more sterling commendation, especially from the mouth of God.  And yet, in those first two chapters, we read of Job losing all his wealth, all his children, and his own health.  Truly, this grand demonstration of God’s sovereignty over suffering is accentuated by the fact that Job suffered in spite of his virtue.  Job suffered not for his sin, but for the glory of God.  That alone should be enough to conclude that there are at least some cases in which godliness does not lead to material prosperity.
But we also know that the apostles did not enjoy lives of wealth and comfort, as one would expect if obedience always resulted in temporal, physical blessings.  Paul in Phil 4:12 says, “I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.”  It could also be said that Paul’s faithfulness to the Lord was actually hazardous to his health – he was beaten within an inch of his life numerous times (2 Cor 11:24-27).
Peter, in his writings, assumed the presence of persecution and suffering in the lives of believers, exhorting them to focus not on the things of this world, but on their inheritance “that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven” for them (1 Pet 1:4).  The teaching that material wealth can be expected as a result of a life of obedience is simply absent from both the teachings and the lives of the apostles.
And what about Jesus?  If you want to find the perfect example of someone who was “careful to do according to all that is written” in God’s Word, how about Jesus, the only person who ever lived a sinless life?  If someone deserved to get rich due to personal holiness, it was Jesus.  So how did Jesus make out materially?  By all accounts, Jesus was the picture of lowliness, from his humble birth in Bethlehem (Luke 2:7) to his vocation as a carpenter (Mark 6:3) to his death among criminals (Matt 27:38). In Matt 8:20, Jesus revealed that “the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”  And what about His health?  It could be argued that His obedience to God resulted in His death, not His good health.
It does not hold water that if we obey God’s Word, we can expect health and wealth.  Rather, in this life persecution and suffering are more to be expected.  For this reason, a prosperity gospel interpretation of Joshua 1:8 does not fit.
Also, the Hebrew words speaking of prosperity and success in Joshua 1:8 are almost never used in the Old Testament to refer to financial success.  Instead, they speak of success in the pursuit of proper endeavors.  In fact, the use of the English word “prosperous” is misleading because of its English connotations.  The two Hebrew words are simply close synonyms for “success”.  Translators, in their desire to preserve the use of two synonyms, chose “prosperous” and “success” because of their semantic overlap.  The Hebrew word translated “prosperous” is used 78 times in the Old Testament, but only once is it even remotely referring to material wealth – Ezekiel 16:13 – and in that instance the prosperity wasn’t earned, but refers to God’s gracious blessing on Jerusalem.
Finally, to interpret the taking of the land as merely a temporal, material blessing is to completely miss its New Testament significance.  Our inheritance as believers is an imperishable salvation to be given to us in Glory (Mat 19:29; 1 Cor 15:50; Eph 1:14, 5:5; Titus 3:7; Heb 9:15, 1 Pet 1:4).  It is only then that we can expect perfect health (1 Cor 15:51-54).  Sticking close to God’s Word and striving for obedience keeps us focused on that future reward, free from the desire for worldly gain that would hamper our struggle against the flesh. 
Those who apply Joshua 1:8 expecting health and wealth will be stuck with fool’s gold in the end.  The true blessing is spiritual help in this life as we wait for our eternal reward in the next.
Posted by Greg Birdwell