I want to share a message from my heart and from the heart of God concerning money. Like it or not, money is power – the power to trade goods and services and thereby fulfil one’s needs and achieve one’s goals. According to the Beatles (and some Christians), ‘all we need is love’. However, I’ve discovered that love doesn’t buy you a lot of groceries and it certainly doesn’t pay the electricity bills!
On one occasion I was preaching about the importance of listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit, and illustrating from personal experience how it can save you a lot of money. After the meeting I was rebuked by a member of the church for speaking about money. In his opinion I should have limited my preaching to such themes as prayer and worship – more ‘spiritual’ subjects. He later admitted that he was flat broke. Interesting, isn’t it, how an aversion to money can be disguised as a spiritual virtue but may, in fact, be covering up a sense of personal inadequacy.
Through the prophet Isaiah, the Lord called for Israel’s attention and reminded them of the benefits of listening to his voice:
“Listen to me, O Jacob, and Israel, my called: I am he, I am the first, I am also the last …. I am the Lord your God, who teaches you to profit, who leads you by the way you should go. Oh, that you had heeded my commandments! Then your peace would have been like a river, and your righteousness like the waves of the sea …” (Isaiah 48:12,17-18)
One can almost hear the plaintive tone of the Father’s voice: “If you had just listened to me, things would have been different …” And that, in a nutshell, is the story of humankind, from Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden right up to the present moment. But the good news is, it’s never too late to start listening to his voice and obeying his word.
The Lord says that he teaches us to profit and leads us by the way we should go. The Hebrew word ‘yaal’, translated profit, literally means to ascend, and by implication, to gain, to benefit, to be useful, to be valuable. The word indicates advancement in every area of life. Similarly, the Hebrew word ‘shalom’, translated peace, connotes health, wellbeing, prosperity and happiness.
The message is clear: listening to the voice of God will bring blessings and benefits to every part of one’s life!
Jesus, Peter, and the fish
On one occasion, when Jesus and his disciples were in Capernaum, the collectors of the temple tax approached Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the temple tax?” Claiming exemption as a son of the covenant, but not wanting to cause an offence, Jesus said to Peter, “Go to the sea, cast in a hook, and take the fish that comes up first. And when you have opened its mouth, you will find a piece of money; take that and give it to them for me and you” (Matthew 17:27)
Now, here’s the interesting thing: Jesus apparently didn’t carry large amounts of money around, and yet he never lacked for anything. The money was always there when it was needed. In fact, it seemed like he could create money out of thin air, or more accurately, out of the invisible spiritual realm. Similarly, when Jesus sent his disciples out on a missionary trip, he instructed them not to carry money with them but to trust God to provide their needs along the way (Matt. 10:5-10).
When confronted with a financial need, remember this: Jesus knows where the money is, and if you will listen to him, he will tell you how to find it. If necessary, he will anoint your hands to make something out of nothing and obtain money from unusual sources.
Hidden riches in secret places
In Isaiah chapter 45, the Lord gives a remarkable prophecy concerning Cyrus, the founder of the Achaemenid dynasty and the Persian Empire. These words were spoken around 712 B.C., approximately 173 years before Cyrus triumphantly entered Babylon on October 29th, 539 B.C.
“Thus says the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus whose right hand I have held – to subdue nations before him and loose the armour of kings, to open before him the double doors, so that the gates will not be shut: I will go before you and make the crooked places straight; I will break in pieces the gates of bronze and cut the bars of iron. I will give you the treasures of darkness and hidden riches of secret places that you may know that I, the Lord, who call you by your name, am the God of Israel.” (Isaiah 45:1-3)
Over the years I have heard preachers try and spiritualize this passage of scripture, claiming that the ‘treasures of darkness’ refer to spiritual treasures and the ‘hidden riches of secret places’ refer to spiritual riches. However, in the context of the prophetic word, Cyrus was a real man, the gates of bronze were real gates, and the treasures were real treasures.
The great city of Babylon was situated on the banks of the river Euphrates. There were walls along each side of the Euphrates with gates which, providing they were kept shut, would hem invading hosts on the river where the Babylonians could easily destroy them. On the night of the capture of Babylon, Cyrus diverted the Euphrates into another channel and, guided by two deserters, marched by the dry river bed into the city. The Greek historian Herodotus states that in the drunken revelry of Babylon (as described in Daniel chapter 5), the inner gates, leading from the streets to the river, were left open. To compound the situation, the gates of the palace were also left open, thus allowing access to every part of the city. Such was the ill-preparedness of the Babylonians that those who lived in the extremities were taken prisoner before the alarm even reached the centre of the palace!
Herodotus also states that Babylon had 100 massive gates, twenty-five on each of the four sides of the city, all of which were made of solid brass. The Babylonians, like many Oriental kingdoms, hid their treasures of gold, silver and precious stones in subterranean vaults. The Roman philosopher Pliny states that Cyrus obtained from the conquest of Asia 34,000 pounds weight of gold, besides golden vases, and 500,000 talents of silver, and the goblet of Semiramis, weighing fifteen talents.
The point is that the Lord God, the Creator of heaven and earth, will open before us doors of opportunity and enable us to acquire ‘treasures of darkness and hidden riches of secret places’ – to draw upon untapped reservoirs of wealth and power. The purpose is not so that we may be rich and powerful, but that like Cyrus, we may be equipped to do the will of God: Who says of Cyrus, “He is my shepherd, and he shall perform all my pleasure, saying to Jerusalem, ‘You shall be built,’ and to the temple, ‘Your foundation shall be laid.’” (Isaiah 44:28).
What’s under your feet?
The Bible says that the earth is the Lord’s and all it contains (Psalm 24:1). The world is full of opportunities; we just need eyes to see them. Jesus exhorted his disciples to lift up their eyes and see the harvest that was all around them (John 4:35).
There’s a little town in western New South Wales called Broken Hill. When I visited Broken Hill I was amazed to see a large mound of earth in the centre of the town, dominating an otherwise plain, undulating landscape. This mountain is man-made, and is the result of years of mining exploration and mineral excavation, because underneath this soil lies one of the world’s largest silver, lead and zinc mineral deposits.
Silver ore was first discovered on the Barrier Range in 1883 by a boundary rider named Charles Rasp. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company (BHP) was incorporated in 1885, operating the silver and lead mine at Broken Hill. One hundred and twenty five years later, having expanded globally and diversified its operations, BHP Billiton is now the world’s largest mining company measured by revenue and the world’s third-largest company measured by market capitalisation.
But for thousands of years Aboriginal Australians hunted kangaroos and goannas on this barren terrain, oblivious to the billions of dollars that lay underneath their feet. European explorers also traversed this region, known colloquially as ‘the outback’, unaware of the vast resources in the earth beneath them. I’ve often reflected on this experience and wondered how many opportunities we miss each day in our quest to capture the next meal or reach the next landmark. One thing is for sure: we don’t lack opportunities or resources; we just lack awareness and courage. For as the Lord said to Abraham: “Everything you see is yours” (Gen. 13:15).