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Why do the wicked seem to prosper?

Sometimes the life of a righteous person seems to us to be far too short. We wish that the Lord might have preserved their lives so that they could have done more good in the world. Then sometimes the lives of the “wicked” seem far too long – they seem to get away with their wickedness. The writer of Psalm 73 (a man named Asaph) struggles with exactly this question. It is worth reading the whole Psalm through three times and meditating on it to allow God to speak to you.

Asaph begins by saying that he’d almost lost his grip on reality (Ps 73:2 – I’d almost lost my footing). The reason is that he had begun to envy the wicked. He sees them getting away with things and doing very well for themselves (Ps 73:3 - they have prosperity, and Ps 73:12 – they increase in wealth). In fact they appear to be blessed – (Ps 73:4-5 they are healthy, they don’t get ill). He then questions whether following God is any use at all (Ps 73:13-14) he is tempted to think it’s all been in vain.

But there is a twist in the Psalm – Asaph is restored to right thinking when he enters the temple of God and is confronted by reality. He remembers that these wicked people have no hope before God in judgment (see Ps 73:15-20).

This Psalm fits with many other passages in the Bible which explain that ultimately God will bring all people to justice. For now we may have to suffer under rulers who are wicked and with cultures where evil is rife but God will send Jesus to judge. Sometimes God allows evil things in order to test us (think of Job’s testing). Sometimes he allows opposition of the church to make it stronger (we can think of many examples from Scripture and from recent history). We don’t have all the answers but we do know that God will punish all who do not come to Jesus in repentance and faith for forgiveness.

While we live in this world where evil is clearly seen around us we are to be salt and light – showing the difference God has made in our lives – explaining that there is a different way to live with the Holy Spirit’s help. We are to offer the good news of the gospel to those who are still held captive by Satan. It will be a terrible thing for them if they experience the judgment of God without the blood of Jesus.

Psalm 73:27-28
Those who are far from you will perish;
you destroy all who are unfaithful to you.
But as for me, it is good to be near God.
I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge;
I will tell of all your deeds.