Getting Rich In A Poor Country

12 When Isaac planted his crops that year, he harvested a hundred times more grain than he planted, for the Lord blessed him.
Genesis 26:12 (NLT)

Context: Genesis 26:1-13 (NLT)

One of the popular ways for religious people to discredit the Gospel Of Jesus Christ is in the form of this question: “What about Christians in poor countries like North Korea and Somalia?” As I have mentioned in the previous article, their basic idea is as follow:
1. There are Christians in poor countries.
2. Christians in poor countries must be poor.
3. The existence of poor Christians means the Gospel Of Jesus Christ is false.

I fully agree on the first point. There are Christians everywhere including poor countries. However I disagree with the second point and I am going to prove to you from the Bible that believers can still be rich even if they live in poor countries. Let us begin.

Here is the background story. Abraham died and passed on his estate to his son Isaac. Before long, there was a severe famine in the region.

1 A severe famine now struck the land, as had happened before in Abraham’s time. So Isaac moved to Gerar, where Abimelech, king of the Philistines, lived.
Genesis 26:1 (NLT)

A famine is the equivalent of economic recession. It was a situation that there was no harvest from the farms. There was no food. Isaac was not just facing an ordinary famine. According to the Bible, it was a severe famine. This means the problem was worse than the usual famine. Isaac and his entire household could be starved to death. What would Isaac do? It depends on whether he is an engineer or a theologian.

If Isaac were a theologian, he would have said, “It is the will of God for this severe famine to take place here. Maybe he is using this famine to teach us humility and his grace. Let us stay here and starve for the glory of God. Praise be to God.” Thank God, Isaac was not a theologian. He was an engineer. When he faced any problems, he looked for solutions, the way engineers do. He moved his entire household to Gerar, the territory of Abimelech, king of the Philistines in his attempt to prevent his household from the prospect of starvation.`

God spoke to him.

2 The Lord appeared to Isaac and said, “Do not go down to Egypt, but do as I tell you.
Genesis 26:2 (NLT)

Why would, the Lord told Isaac not to go to Egypt? Isaac must be planning to go there. I suspect Egypt did not experience famine at that time. So it makes sense to go there. However the Lord appeared to Isaac and said don’t go to Egypt. Why did God do that? Was he really a pervert who wanted his people to starve? The following verses tell us the answer.

3 Live here as a foreigner in this land, and I will be with you and bless you. I hereby confirm that I will give all these lands to you and your descendants,[a] just as I solemnly promised Abraham, your father.
4 I will cause your descendants to become as numerous as the stars of the sky, and I will give them all these lands. And through your descendants all the nations of the earth will be blessed.
5 I will do this because Abraham listened to me and obeyed all my requirements, commands, decrees, and instructions.”
Genesis 26:3-5 (NLT)

Let me simplify the above.

1. God wanted Isaac to live as a foreigner in that land.
2. God will be with him and bless him.
3. God confirmed that he will give to Isaac and his descendents those lands He promised to Abraham.
4. The entire world will be blessed through the descendents of Isaac.
5. The reason for the above blessings is the obedience of Abraham.

God wanted Isaac to stay on in the place he was in and not to go to a richer country. God promised to be with Isaac and bless him. If you are religious, such promise means nothing to you. I have a religious guy who wrote in to tell me that his countrymen earned an average of $1 a day and they are more blessed than us Singaporeans. If earning $1 a day is a blessing then God must be very cheap. I am sure many of us are willing to give away such “blessings”. What actually is a blessing? This is what the Bible says.

22The blessing of the LORD, it maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow with it.
Proverbs 10:22(KJV)

The blessing of God makes us rich. So, the blessing of God is not having an income of $1 a day. When God promised Isaac blessings, it means God will make sure Isaac will be rich. Please note that Isaac was physically staying in a poor country at that time. This means God can still bless you (and make you rich) even if you are physically living in a poor country right now.

In Points 3 and 4, God reaffirms his promised to Abraham, Isaac’s daddy and Isaac was the beneficiary of that promise. Point 5 tells us that Isaac’s blessings originated from Abraham’s obedience. So, Isaac’s blessings were based on his father’s obedience and on his own obedience to God. Does this sound familiar to you? Why do you think God is willing to bless you? Do you think God blesses you because of your obedience, or do you think God is blessing you because of Jesus’ obedience? This makes a great difference to our prosperity.

If we choose to rely on our own obedience (Self Righteousness), our blessings will not be secure because our obedience is imperfect. However if we choose to rely on Jesus’ obedience (Christ Righteousness), our blessings is eternal because Jesus’ obedience is perfect and eternal.

What was Isaac’s choice?

6 So Isaac stayed in Gerar.
Genesis 26:6 (NLT)

He was smart enough to obey God. He cancelled his immigration plan.

Then the problem started. Isaac committed a sin.

7 When the men who lived there asked Isaac about his wife, Rebekah, he said, “She is my sister.” He was afraid to say, “She is my wife.” He thought, “They will kill me to get her, because she is so beautiful.”
8 But some time later, Abimelech, king of the Philistines, looked out his window and saw Isaac caressing Rebekah.
9 Immediately, Abimelech called for Isaac and exclaimed, “She is obviously your wife! Why did you say, ‘She is my sister’?”

“Because I was afraid someone would kill me to get her from me,” Isaac replied.
10 “How could you do this to us?” Abimelech exclaimed. “One of my people might easily have taken your wife and slept with her, and you would have made us guilty of great sin.”
11 Then Abimelech issued a public proclamation: “Anyone who touches this man or his wife will be put to death!”
Genesis 26:7-11 (NLT)

Isaac was afraid that the king might kill him for his wife. So he lied by telling the people there that Rebekah was his sister. He resorted to sin. How did God respond to Isaac’s sin? Please note that the Law of Moses did not exist at that time. So, God was not bounded by the Law to punish the sinner. Instead God bailed Isaac out. God arranged for the lie to be exposed and even caused the king to guarantee the safety of Isaac and his wife. Why would God do that? What was so special about Isaac that not only was he able to get away from his sin, he even had God to bail him out from his sin and got him a formal guarantee of his safety. The answer: the Covenant Of Abraham.

The covenant that God made with Abraham had obligated God not only to bless his descendents but also to deliver and bail them out of their own sins. This is good news for us Christians. As Christians, we are the spiritual seed of Abraham. If you happen to have made serious mistakes or sins in the past, God is still on your side. He will bless you and bail you out of that sin. If you think you deserve some punishments for your sins, just remember Jesus had taken those punishments on your behalf at the Cross. You can start your life anew. You can live your life everyday and face God as if you have never sin. Isn’t God good?

Let us continue with the story.

12 When Isaac planted his crops that year, he harvested a hundred times more grain than he planted, for the Lord blessed him.
13 He became a very rich man, and his wealth continued to grow.
Genesis 26:12-13 (NLT)

God kept his promise. God’s blessings made Isaac rich. Isaac’s net worth increased one hundred times a year in a time and place that were supposed to be in severe famine. Verse 13 tells us that Isaac became a very rich man and his wealth continued to grow. The moral of this story is, God can make you rich even if you are in a poor country right now. He did it before and he can do it again. The question is, are you willing to believe and obey?

Verse 12 tells us that Isaac had a role to play in his prosperity. He planted his crops. Other translations say he sowed. If you want to be rich even in famine, you have to sow your seeds. What does that mean?

First it refers to giving. Sowing and reaping is the natural law of God. It works every time even for non Christians. In my opinion, the greatest proof that the Bible is true is, it works even for non Christians when they obeyed its principles. There are many non Christians out there got extremely rich using the principles from the Bible. It is a shame for us not to be richer than them. So, start sowing what you have. God has promised that we will reap what we sow. If you want to have a lot of money, sow money. The harvest is always greater than the seeds. In Isaac’s case, he got back a hundred times in a year. Let us do the same.

The second meaning to the phase “plant our crops” is to take up any legitimate jobs available to us. If you happened to have been laid off by your company and you are unable to find similar jobs, then God wants you to take up any legitimate jobs available even if is about selling burgers, washing dishes or sweeping the streets. Don’t be idle. No matter how bad those jobs are, God can still bless you as long as you continue to trust in him.

In conclusion, the blessing of God can still work even in the situation that says the opposite. The question is, are you willing to believe?

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