What Really Happens to the Wicked
I’d like to pose a question. Do you feel at times that despite the wickedness in some people, they seem to prosper? If you have answered yes to this question, you are not alone. In fact, somebody else felt this way too. He was a worship leader living in the time of King David. His name was Asaph, and he records what he felt in Psalm 73.
He starts out by remembering God’s goodness. Then, in verses 2 and 3, he makes a confession. He’s jealous of those who are boastful or proud. Harboring this jealousy almost makes him lose sight of God’s goodness. This is what he says, “Truly God is good to Israel, to those whose hearts are pure. But as for me, I almost lost my footing. My feet were slipping, and I was almost gone. For I envied the proud when I saw them prosper despite their wickedness.”
Next, Asaph makes a list of all the ways the wicked seemed to prosper. No troubles, healthy bodies, and then he says this in verse 7, “These fat cats have everything their hearts could ever wish for.” Sounds like jealousy, doesn’t it?
If we aren’t careful, we too can fall into losing sight of God’s goodness, and once that happens, we can fall into doubting God and wonder why we should follow him at all. Read these words of this Psalm in the Message version (a well-known paraphrase version of the Bible): “What’s going on here? Is God out to lunch? Nobody’s tending the store. The wicked get by with everything; they have it made, piling up riches. I’ve been stupid to play by the rules; what has that gotten me?” Asaph may have been thinking something similar to this. It certainly messed up his thinking, and it can mess up ours too.
However, Asaph has an “ah-ha” moment. He goes to God about how he was feeling, and he says in verse 17, “I finally understood the destiny of the wicked.” His conclusion? The wicked don’t really end up prospering, at least not for long. Asaph expresses it this way saying, “Truly, you put them on a slippery path and send them sliding over the cliff to destruction.” That is pretty much what we see today, isn’t it? A celebrity or politician in their hay-day and the next thing we hear they’re either in jail or dead. succumbed to a lifestyle of drugs, partying, and the like that ultimately takes them out.
Here’s another question. Is it right of us to think the rich have it all to begin with? Is it right for us to feel jealous and doubt God’s goodness? Asaph confesses to God, “Then I realized that my heart was bitter, and I was all torn up inside. I was so foolish and ignorant – I must have seemed like a senseless animal to you.”
Sometimes we can become angry at the behavior of this world, and that is fine. However, when that anger turns into doubt and bitterness, we have to stop and confess it to God and ask for forgiveness as Asaph does.
Asaph ends the Psalm acknowledging God’s guidance and hand on his life, renewing his faith in God. My favorite verse in this Psalm is verse 26, “My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever.”
He continues in verses 27 and 28, “Those who desert him will perish, for you destroy those who abandon you. But as for me, how good is it to be near God! I have made the Sovereign Lord my shelter, and I will tell everyone about the wonderful things you do.”
Asaph gets it right. There’s no need to be concerned about the wicked getting away with it. God is still on his throne, and being near to God is the best place to be. I’d agree with that, wouldn’t you?