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July 2014 Issue

Work and the Word: A Biblical Survey of Labor


  • Yesterday

    Judgment on the Unjust
  • Today

    A Prophetic Vision of Prosperity
  • Tomorrow

    Working in the Face of Hostility
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Devotion for Thursday, July 24, 2014

A Prophetic Vision of Prosperity

Read Joel 2:18–27

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Do not be afraid, land of Judah; be glad and rejoice. Surely the LORD has done great things! Joel 2:21

Earlier this year Cadillac released an ad that featured a man walking around his posh home posing and then answering the question, Why do we work so hard? Before driving off in his luxury Cadillac, he says to the camera: “You work hard. You create your own luck. And you gotta believe anything is possible. As for all the stuff? Well, that’s the upside of only taking two weeks off in August.”

This vision of prosperity has little in common with words we find in today’s Bible passage. The book of Joel is one of the twelve books called the Minor Prophets (“minor” due to their shorter length, not their importance). Though these prophets were called to speak to God’s people at different places and times, all of them have the background context of the covenant that God has made with His people. Israel violated the covenant, God responded with punishment and exile for Israel, and then God eventually restored His people back to the land and a rebuilt temple and community of worship.

In this passage, God is moved to pity the plight of His people. Despite the fact the Israelites’ own sin brought their judgment, God remained invested in their wellbeing. Scripture describes Him as “jealous,” which in Hebrew connotes a sense of ownership. God can no longer stand to let outsiders oppress and encroach upon His “property,” and so He turns his anger on the usurpers (v. 20), driving them out of Israel. The passage goes on to describe the promised restoration with images of agricultural and ecological flourishing.

God’s labor—not our own—is at this center of biblical visions of prosperity. Our work is a gift from God, providing opportunities to worship Him with our efforts. That is the true blessing of our work.

Apply the Word

How would you answer the question of the man in the Cadillac commercial: Why do we work so hard? You might want to reflect on this question in your spiritual journal or discuss it with your small group or Sunday school class. Do we work hard for material benefits or because of cultural pressure? Or is it to bring glory to God?

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