We want to be careful here. We do not question the Lord's ability or even willingness to bless His own. But if the Lord chooses to bless us, it is done according to His will and for his purposes. Our apostle lays down our expectation and hope in prayer in one of the epistles for this age.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
The idea here is leaving things with the Lord, come what may. We are not Israel. We have no promises of a quid pro quo based on a level of obedience. Israel's hope was tied to the earth. Surely, individual Israelites experienced spiritual blessings as a result of their faith and obedience, but under that economy, a physical blessing was usually displayed. Job, David, Abraham all enjoyed earthly blessings as well as spiritual blessings.
In Isaiah 42, the prophet to the people of Israel expresses a dual effect of Israel's sin. The nation was looted and plundered (42:22) by a visible enemy, but also by the Lord who used a sinful nation to punish Israel.
Who handed Jacob over to become loot,
and Israel to the plunderers?
Was it not the Lord,
against whom we have sinned?
For they would not follow his ways;
they did not obey his law.
So he poured out on them his burning anger,
the violence of war.
It enveloped them in flames, yet they did not understand;
it consumed them, but they did not take it to heart.
For those who may be prone to be moved to despair that physical blessings do not flow as freely in this age, be comforted that quick chastisement from the Lord is also slower to rise. Surely, the Lord still chastises his own. He has done this from the Garden. He does this for our long-term good. His chastisement (or even his invasion into our earthly plans) is for our good despite the pain that may come with it.
We must start to build our understanding of God's working in our lives, no matter the age, on the sure foundation of this statement from Job.
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
Job has submitted himself to God' will. Job suffered the loss of everything, even his own children, and he was not sure why. He had committed no grave sin in the eyes of the Lord. He becomes the focus of Satan's wrath for this very reason. The Lord offers Job as a great example of faith and fidelity.
And Job not only lost his goods and his children (a fate I cannot imagine), he was saddled with a thorn in his flesh in the person of his wife. His friends come along and their explanations fall short of an understanding of God's ultimate and permissive sovereignty. Job himself, in his defense before the Lord, fails (at first) to see the Lord's sovereignty.
One of the greatest lessons from the Book of Job is that the Lord never tells Job (in the text) what was happening in the spiritual realm. The Lord's response to Job's questioning is to layout the wonders of His creation. He poses this question to Job as an opening:
‘Who is this that darkens counsel without knowledge?’
We have limited knowledge as to the plans and purposes of God in our individual life. We do know that he wants us to seek him, to study his word, to cleanse our ways, to rightly divide the Word of Truth, etc. As we trek stubbornly through this life, in His love, He often has to bring unpleasant events into our lives.
For those who teach that a "positive confession" puts the Lord in their debt to respond positively to their wills, despite such a thing possibly being to the detriment of the believer, I ask that they step back. The Lord has answered the prayers of His people only for such "blessings" to result in misery.
The Lord gave Israel the King they desired in Saul, yet his reign was a terrible time for the nation. The Lord blessed Israel when the entered the land, only to have them defeated because of Achan's greed. The Lord provided a victory, Achan "coveted." Many lost their lives.
So about three thousand men went up there from the people, but they fled before the men of Ai. And the men of Ai struck down about thirty-six men, for they chased them from before the gate as far as Shebarim, and struck them down on the descent; therefore the[d] hearts of the people melted and became like water.
“Indeed I have sinned against the Lord God of Israel, and this is what I have done: When I saw among the spoils a beautiful Babylonian garment, two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold weighing fifty shekels, I coveted them and took them. And there they are, hidden in the earth in the midst of my tent, with the silver under it.”
Let's us change gears and look at "confessions" concerning ourselves. Those who have confessed Christ, and believe God has raised him from the dead, these have the power to be called the children of God.
But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.
if you acknowledge publicly with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and trust in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be delivered
When the Lord shows himself risen to Thomas, he announces a blessing to those who trust in Him and believe in the resurrection.
“Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed [in the resurrection]. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.
So, it is proper and good to rejoice in the fact that we can have life in His name. It is a wonderful thought that we are "translated into the kingdom of His Dear Son." But such blessings have nothing to do with us. Our future resurrection and our current place in His kingdom are all of him. We are but wretched sinners delivered from the curse of death and decay by the grace of God.
Those who chastise us for referring to ourselves as wretched sinners, need to look to the apostle Paul. We do not use such a confession to signal how wonderful we are for admitting the obvious, we confess this truth to bring glory to God and to exalt the work of Christ and His resurrection..
Note how Paul's "confession" moves. All of these verses are from later in the great apostle's ministry.
For I am the least of the apostles, that am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.
-1 Corinthians 15:9 (Approx AD 58)
Paul notes that he is unworthy of being called an apostle. He places himself as the least among that august group. This is no "woe is me" or "look how humble I am" moment, this is the inspired apostle of God rightfully acknowledging God's grace. But Paul does not stop there.
Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ...
-Ephesians 3:8 (Approx AD 62-63)
Paul's first Post-Acts epistle which speaks of "unsearchable riches of Christ" in the far above the heavens has the apostle taking an even lower place than his previous declaration. He now places himself as the the least of all the saints. This man, who was alone given the revelation of the current age, understands how unworthy he is. And that understanding of his own unworthiness again brings glory to God and exalts God's grace.
Imagine Paul declaring he has a "spark of deity" and screaming that is "a child of the King!" and thus expecting riches and glory and accolades from the world. I believe Paul would be horrified by the thought.
And finally, Paul places himself as the chief of sinners.
This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.
-1 Timothy 1:15 (Approx AD 64)
This is Paul's confession. He is least of the Apostles, less than the least of all the saints (believers), and the chief of sinners. Job was also a believer when he confessed:
Then Job answered the Lord and said:
“Behold, I am vile;
What shall I answer You?
I lay my hand over my mouth.
Perhaps it would do us good to remind ourselves how vile our sin truly is. Our arrogance. Our pride. Our self-exaltation. And when we take our place as the chief of sinners, we are saddled with the flesh which wants to celebrate how humble we are. The carnal nature is surely wicked and vile, and the grace of God is surely beyond comprehension.
In the Acts age, as they anticipated the coming Tribulation, they didn’t demand of God wealth and comfort. They merely trusted in his promises in an age to come.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.
What a foolish notion it is that these bodies of death can offer anything in light of the glorious resurrection of our Great God and Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. All we can offer is faith and we can only do that because of his grace and love.