JEREMIAH 12:1-4: “Righteous are You, O LORD, when I plead with You; Yet let me talk with You about Your judgments. Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why are those happy who deal so treacherously? You have planted them, yes, they have taken root; They grow, yes, they bear fruit. You are near in their mouth But far from their mind. But You, O LORD, know me; You have seen me, And You have tested my heart toward You. Pull them out like sheep for the slaughter, And prepare them for the day of slaughter. How long will the land mourn, And the herbs of every field wither? The beasts and birds are consumed, For the wickedness of those who dwell there, Because they said, “He will not see our final end.” (ESV)
OBSERVATION: Why do the wicked prosper? This is a question all of us have asked. It is especially a perplexing question to the one who trusts in God and faces trials and persecution, while the wicked live in comfort. They do not worship the living God. They do not give their time in His service. They do not worship with their tithes and offerings and give aid to the poor. Doesn’t the Lord care? Doesn’t the Lord see?
Jeremiah was being faithful in delivering the Lord’s message to the backslidden nation of Judah. They honored God with their lips, but their hearts were far from Him. They worshipped idols in their homes and on every high place they could find. They continued to live and prosper while Jeremiah was on the run, under death threats wherever he went. He was a flickering light in a sea of darkness. Would God ever judge the wicked? Would he ever be vindicated?
The Psalmist faced the same struggle in Psalm 73. Hear his words.
- “Truly God is good to Israel, To such as are pure in heart. But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled; My steps had nearly slipped. For I was envious of the boastful, When I saw the prosperity of the wicked. For there are no pangs in their death, But their strength is firm. They are not in trouble as other men, Nor are they plagued like other men. Therefore pride serves as their necklace; Violence covers them like a garment. Their eyes bulge with abundance; They have more than heart could wish. They scoff and speak wickedly concerning oppression; They speak loftily. They set their mouth against the heavens, And their tongue walks through the earth. Therefore his people return here, And waters of a full cup are drained by them. And they say, “How does God know? And is there knowledge in the Most High?” Behold, these are the ungodly, Who are always at ease; They increase in riches.” (Psalms 73:1-12 NKJV)
The Psalmist faces the same despair and inner questioning. Is it all worth it?
- “Surely I have cleansed my heart in vain, And washed my hands in innocence. For all day long I have been plagued, And chastened every morning. If I had said, “I will speak thus,” Behold, I would have been untrue to the generation of Your children. When I thought how to understand this, It was too painful for me—” (Psalms 73:13-16 NKJV)
Yet, the Psalmist, like Jeremiah, learned the truth and reality when he went into the presence of God, when he looked upon the Word of God.
- “Until I went into the sanctuary of God; Then I understood their end. Surely You set them in slippery places; You cast them down to destruction. Oh, how they are brought to desolation, as in a moment! They are utterly consumed with terrors. As a dream when one awakes, So, Lord, when You awake, You shall despise their image. Thus my heart was grieved, And I was vexed in my mind. I was so foolish and ignorant; I was like a beast before You.” (Psalms 73:17-22 NKJV)
And in this moment of revelation the Psalmist learned what Jeremiah would also learn, and what each one of us will come to know as we open our hearts to His Word, as we take time to be in His Presence.
- “Nevertheless I am continually with You; You hold me by my right hand. You will guide me with Your counsel, And afterward receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You. My flesh and my heart fail; But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. For indeed, those who are far from You shall perish; You have destroyed all those who desert You for harlotry. But it is good for me to draw near to God; I have put my trust in the Lord G OD, That I may declare all Your works.” (Psalms 73:23-28 NKJV)
This morning, may I not worry about the wicked, but may I draw near to God. As I am comforted and reassured in His presence, may my heart be filled with His compassion, with His love, and with His heart – to reach out to the wicked with the hope of the Gospel. God desires that all men come to repentance – even the wicked who live in denial and defiance of His love. With men it may seem impossible that someone like this can be saved. However- with God, all things are possible! Paul is living proof that even the vilest of sinners can be redeemed.
Lord, give me Your heart towards the lost – especially those who slander Your Name in word and deed. May I commit judgment to You and may I extend the Gospel to All.
In Jesus Name!