"Live Long and Prosper"
Some may think Star Trek-like prosperity is like finding new worlds where lavish gifts await. Is the true path to success something better than we could find by our own devices?
Star Trek, created by Gene Roddenberry 51
years ago, pushed the imaginary boundaries of the future in space, as the crew
of the Enterprise would explore “strange new worlds, seek out new life and
boldly go where no one has gone before.”
One lasting aspect of Star Trek featured Spock’s splay–fingered Vulcan salute: “Live long and prosper.” Perhaps the influence of that line comes from our deep desire to enjoy life for as long as possible and enjoy it well.
The Bible uses “prosper” and “prosperity” frequently in the Old Testament, concerning obedience to all God has instructed Israel to do when they finally reached the Promised Land, for they would need to be faithful and obedient if they planned to stay there.
Early in the Book of Joshua, after Moses has been replaced by Joshua as Israel’s leader, “prosper” is further linked to the promise of success. Success, especially one guaranteed, is rare in Scripture and remains the province of late night TV with guarantees of health, wealth, happiness and weight loss if one purchases the right program or equipment.
The Bible’s reference to success makes for quite a change from the current so-called “prosperity gospel” that presents God as so eager to pour riches on His people, that not only can you pray for a car for transportation, but you can even specify the color, make and model. Sadly they made God to be a divine ATM where all our wishes and demands are met as God pops open the treasury of Heaven. Jesus said that “Whatever we ask in His name,” we would receive, but that applies to what we need—not necessarily what we want. God’s prosperity is not a magic formula or part of a Vulcan greeting.
On the way to the Promised Land, Moses spoke of prosperity to a nation of ex-slaves who had lived 430 years as Egypt’s “guests,” furnishing labor to build their treasured cities until God said it was time to go. Moses reminded them of the promise of what was ahead and they trusted and obeyed.
“So be careful to do what the Lord your God has commanded you; do not turn aside to the right or to the left. Walk in obedience to all that the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess” (Deut.5: 32–33). Welcome news for former slaves.
Moses told them, “The Lord commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear the Lord our God, so that we might always prosper and be kept alive, as is the case today. And if we are careful to obey all this law before the Lord our God, as He has commanded us, that will be our righteousness” (Deut. 6:24).
But the promises and warnings come with accompanying consequences—good is rewarded and disobedience is punished. It is not just compliance but a willing acceptance that the Lord’s way is a far better way than anything we could devise for ourselves. “Just as it pleased God to make you prosper and increase in number, so it will please Him to ruin and destroy you. You will be uprooted from the land you are entering to possess. See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commands, decrees and laws; then you will always live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess. But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to other gods and worship them, I [Moses] declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed” (Deut. 28: 63; 30:15-18).
The Lord reminded Joshua and the people to pay attention to what was most important if they were to survive and thrive in their new homeland.
“Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Josh 1:8–9). Sadly, they failed to remember.
Years later, after Israel was firmly established during the time of the kings, their first king and God’s favorite, David, had advice for Solomon, his son, as the next king. “Be strong, show yourself a man, and observe what the Lord your God requires. Walk in His ways, and keep His decrees and commands, His laws and commandments, as written in the Law of Moses, so that you may prosper in all you do, wherever you go” (1 Kings 2:3). Too bad Solomon did not protect what was most important for true prosperity: obedience to the Lord’s expectations, not anything in his wisdom, affluence, power or skill.
Generations later the people forgot all that they had promised to remember, until there was no idolatry, no perversion, no rebellion too wicked for them to enter into willingly. As a result, the Lord allowed them to be defeated and exiled in Assyria and Babylon, for they had done exactly what Moses had warned them not to do, and they had no one to blame but themselves.
Years later, the Prophet Jeremiah promised a future happy ending to those who would return to their love of the Lord. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart. I will be found by you … and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you … and I will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile” (Jer. 29:11).
The Lord planned for them to “live long and prosper,” just like the promise made generations before—that holds true for us. Trust, obey and live long and prosper.
Major A. Kenneth Wilson author of "The First Dysfunctional Family" www.crestbooks.com and other books, lives in Lancaster, PA.
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