The wicked prosper

Certainly God is good to Israel,
and to those whose motives are pure!
But as for me, my feet almost slipped;
my feet almost slid out from under me.
For I envied those who are proud,
as I observed the prosperity of the wicked.
For they suffer no pain;
their bodies are strong and well- fed.
They are immune to the trouble common to men;
they do not suffer as other men do.
Arrogance is their necklace,
and violence their clothing.
Their prosperity causes them to do wrong;
their thoughts are sinful.
They mock and say evil things;
they proudly threaten violence.
They speak as if they rule in heaven,
and lay claim to the earth.
Therefore they have more than enough food to eat,
and even suck up the water of the sea.
They say, “How does God know what we do?
Is the sovereign one aware of what goes on?”
Take a good look! This is what the wicked are like,
those who always have it so easy and get richer and richer.
I concluded, “Surely in vain I have kept my motives pure
and maintained a pure lifestyle.
I suffer all day long,
and am punished every morning.”
If I had publicized these thoughts,
I would have betrayed your loyal followers.
When I tried to make sense of this,
it was troubling to me.
Then I entered the precincts of Gods temple,
and understood the destiny of the wicked.
Surely you put them in slippery places;
you bring them down to ruin.
How desolate they become in a mere moment!
Terrifying judgments make their demise complete!
They are like a dream after one wakes up.
O Lord, when you awake you will despise them.
Yes, my spirit was bitter,
and my insides felt sharp pain.
I was ignorant and lacked insight;
I was as senseless as an animal before you.
But I am continually with you;
you hold my right hand.
You guide me by your wise advice,
and then you will lead me to a position of honor.
Whom do I have in heaven but you?
I desire no one but you on earth.
My flesh and my heart may grow weak,
but God always protects my heart and gives me stability.
Yes, look! Those far from you die;
you destroy everyone who is unfaithful to you.
But as for me, Gods presence is all I need.
I have made the sovereign Lord my shelter,
as I declare all the things you have done.
Psalm 73

Psalm 73 is a difficult psalm for many to read and hear. It is the honesty and truthfulness of the psalmist that cuts to the bone. He rightly observes one thing: the wicked prosper and flourish. For many who believe in what we now call prosperity gospel, this is an especially hard thing to swallow.

Just in case we are tempted to deny this fact and imagine this to be something that only happened “in those days”, just look around. Do we escape pain and suffering more than pagans? Are our bank accounts bigger? Do we live in bigger houses, have more children, live longer and more enjoyable lives? No we don’t. If we measured God’s favour and blessing solely by earthly health and wealth, certainly we would lose all credibility as Christians and God would lose all credibility as God. Didn’t God say that we will be blessed if we believe in Him and have faith? Doesn’t God promise that He will provide all our needs? Yes He did. But He maintains sovereignty over all (Psalm 73:28, “I have made the sovereign Lord my shelter”). He need only be fair in His own eyes, not ours. We cannot measure God’s sovereignty by our yard Born in China trailer

Thankfully, God (and the psalmist) doesn’t leave us stuck with this problem. He goes on to reveal a more eternal view.

  • Their enjoyment is only temporal, there is an end to this perceived unfairness (Psalm 73:17,20). But those who are near to God escape destruction in the shelter of His presence (Psalm 73:27-28).
  • The end for them is not sweet, desolation and destruction awaits them (Psalm 73:18-19, 27). Contrasted against the “position of honour” for the one whom God holds (Psalm 73:24).

But this eternal view isn’t the end. What He goes on to is a God centric view. He comes to the conclusion that nothing on earth is more worthy than God. Read what he says here:

Whom do I have in heaven but you?
I desire no one but you on earth.
Psalm 73:25 (See also Psalm 73:23-28)

Consider how God is central to every saving action, not man. God holds the psalmist right hand, therefore the psalmist is continually with Him. God guides with wise advice and will lead him to a position of honour. God protects his heart (unlike the wicked whose heart is corrupted by riches, Psalm 73:7-9) and grants stability. When the psalmist understands God’s redemptive desire and ability, he reassesses his position and declares that God is ALL he needs and ends with “I declare all the things you have done” (Psalm 73:27-28).