We’ve all seen it. Bad people succeed. They are powerful and persuasive, and people follow them. They change people’s minds and sway votes in the boardroom. They have beautiful families and lovely homes. Moreover, they have both the time and the money to take vacations to exotic hideaways much too far away to reach in their impressive cars — but they have no integrity.
For these people, truth is relative. They use people like they use money—to accomplish their agendas and to gain control. They even use religion as a tool for manipulation. After all, who can argue against a plea for tolerance, unity, or a healthy lifestyle? Who can stand against a highly moral man or woman whose destructive agenda is camouflaged behind public obedience to the law or to Christian principles?
Asaph, the writer of Psalm 73, struggled with this question. Why do good things happen to bad people when God’s people suffer?
Why do shepherds of God’s flock who faithfully teach His word suffer the death of their 44-year-old daughter to brain cancer, as Gary and Elizabeth Inrig did last month? Why does God thrust them suddenly into parenting their eight-and-fourteen-year-old grandchildren?
Why does an 88-year-old daughter of the Father find herself in rehab with a fractured spine and a new pacemaker, as my mother does now? Why do God’s people walk toward the ends of their lives facing depression and helplessness as they lose their strength?
Why do countless former Adventists embrace the new covenant and the gospel of the Lord Jesus and find themselves alienated and shut out from the families and friends who have shaped their identities? Why do honest men and women lose jobs and even marriages when they believe in the Lord Jesus and receive eternal life?
The Adventist organization continues to grow; people who “work for the church” can climb the Adventist ladder and become important people. They have secure jobs; their children are assured admission into Adventist universities. They have excellent health care and insurance.
What good is a life of purity and truth when taking a stand against deception so often means being marginalized and disenfranchised? The truth-teller is mocked; the manipulator gains prestige. It almost seems as if a life of integrity and the pursuit of truth is worthless.
Asaph confesses, in Psalm 73:2-3, that as he faced these questions, he almost lost his footing: “My feet came close to stumbling, my steps had almost slipped. For I was envious of the arrogant as I saw the prosperity of the wicked.”
He was on the verge of shouting out his anger at God, but suddenly he realized that if he did, speaking of his lack of faith would betray “the generation of Your children” (v. 15). If he had spoken of his doubts as if he were imparting insight and understanding, he would have betrayed the faith and confidence of those who trust God. He would have been speaking from his own fleshly perspective and victimization. He chose, not to suppress his doubts, but to be careful with them so he didn’t hurt the faith of others.
Verse 17 reveals where Asaph began to see reality: he “came into the sanctuary of God.” When Asaph chose to go to the place where believers gathered because God’s presence was there, he suddenly regained perspective. In God’s presence he saw the end of the wicked.
In spite of their successes and prosperity now, the wicked on are a slippery slope. God will destroy them in the end.
For us as new covenant Christians, the “place” where we come to see reality is the cross. At Calvary and at the empty tomb we see what God does with evil. The cross is where the mysteries and questions about the central truths of life are answered.
If Jesus really is the God-man who died for human sin and rose from death, breaking forever the curse of sin, then we can know absolutely that wickedness and evil will ultimately be destroyed eternally.
When we believe in Jesus, we are actually transferred out of the domain of darkness and placed by the Father into the kingdom of the Beloved Son (Col. 1:13). Those who do not believe remain in the domain of darkness. Even their morality and grand deeds are generated from darkness, and they will be destroyed with them.
Because Jesus rose from death, we have His life and His perspective the moment we repent and believe. When we have been forgiven by the sacrifice of His life, we have the great privilege of approaching the Father directly on the basis of Jesus’ perfect sacrifice. We can pray.
As Christians we have an advantage Asaph did not have: we can come directly to the Father and carry the presence of the Lord Jesus with us by His indwelling Spirit. We don’t go to a physical place to enter the presence of God; we come directly to Him to be anchored in reality.
As believers, therefore, we can know that the wicked’s prosperity is temporary; their end will be destruction. Believers, on the other hand, suffer temporarily. Our end is eternal life and eternal glory with the Lord Jesus.
We can know that the Inrigs will spend eternity with their fully alive daughter. They can know that their new job of parenting their grandchildren will yield eternal results that will bear fruit for the kingdom.
My mother knows that when her body wears out, her spirit will be ushered into the presence of the Lord Jesus, released from her sickness and pain to rest consciously in Him as she waits with joy for the resurrection.
When we bring our envy and our doubts to the cross of Jesus, there He gives us a view of reality. He reminds us that He bore our sin to release us from our legacy of evil. He rose from the grave to restore us to life and to Himself. Those of us who trust Him and know Him have a guaranteed future: we have already entered eternal life, and our momentary sufferings here will be nothing compared to the eternal glory He has promised us.
Moreover, the prosperity of the wicked will resolve in God’s justice as He destroys evil and grants His children their eternal inheritance in the Lord Jesus.
Asaph came into God’s temple to have his doubts resolved. As Christians, we come directly to the Father to see reality, and He shows us the cross. He reminds us that His Son paid the price required to atone for sin, and He shows us that Jesus’ resurrection has already given us life.
We can rejoice. The injustice of evil is already condemned, and our eternal future is bright, guaranteed by the death, resurrection, and ascension of the Lord Jesus.
He is risen!