Hello everybody and welcome in to episode #259 of the Bible 2021 podcast. We are reading Psalms 73 today and our focus is on Why Does God Allow Bad People to Have Great Lives?? Why Does God Bless the Wicked? We are a daily 10 minute podcast, where we will dig in to the truth of the Word of God by reading one Bible chapter a day and discussing it. Welcome to new listeners in Our goal is to encourage DAILY Bible reading, so you can jump in at any time and join with us. We want to invite as many people as possible to join us in daily Bible reading, so help spread the word and share the podcast! Don’t forget about our web-page, Bible2021.com – contact page, show notes, transcript and more– Click here for our Bible 2021 reading plan\
Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful Psalm tonight – one of my favorite chapters that we’ve read this year! I say that, because I think it has been awhile since I’ve read it, so it was fresh, and I was kind of blown away by it when we read it as a family together earlier tonight. This Psalm is deep waters- deep truths are here. Better get your life-vest on and buckled tightly!
One of the seemingly strongest charges against Christianity is the so called problem of evil. The ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus, and the more modern skeptic David Hume, have argued that the obvious existence of evil in the world rules out the possibility of a beneficent God like the God of the Bible. Hume phrased Epicurus’ argument like this:
P1. If an omnipotent, omnibenevolent and omniscient god exists, then evil does not.
P2. There is evil in the world.
C1. Therefore, an omnipotent, omnibenevolent and omniscient god does not exist.
Does such a logical formulation rule out the possibility of a good God? Of course not – and especially not the God of the Bible. In fact, if there wasn’t evil in the world, and if seemingly good people didn’t suffer, then the Bible would be found faulty and wrong in several instances, because the Bible very clearly depicts evil forces rampant in the world and depicts relatively good people suffering, and contains the promise that relatively good people will continue to suffer. (See John 16:33) The problem of evil is no problem for the Bible, in other words.
Today’s Psalm presents us with a different philosophical problem: the problem of the wicked prospering. Why doesn’t God quickly judge evil people? Why does evil prosper? Our friend Asaph will take up this most important question today in Psalm 73.
I like how Asaph thinks. He’s about to lay something heavy on us, but right before that, he stops to praise God in verse 1 – “God is indeed good to Israel.” Amen, and then he launches into describing with admirable transparency, a soul-rending episode in his life where he very nearly lost faith in God. If you’ve been there before – you’ve gone through something or seen something that almost was enough to make you slip away, then Asaph is your guy. He tells us in verse two that his foot had almost slipped – he had nearly stumbled away. What made Asaph stumble so badly? Envy of the wicked and arrogant and rich, as it turns out. Here’s his description, and boy is he descriptive!
For I envied the arrogant;
I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
4 They have an easy time until they die,
and their bodies are well fed.
5 They are not in trouble like others;
they are not afflicted like most people.
6 Therefore, pride is their necklace,
and violence covers them like a garment.
7 Their eyes bulge out from fatness;
the imaginations of their hearts run wild.
8 They mock, and they speak maliciously;
they arrogantly threaten oppression.
9 They set their mouths against heaven,
and their tongues strut across the earth.
12 Look at them—the wicked!
They are always at ease,
and they increase their wealth. Psalm 73:1-12
To summarize – Asaph sees these people prospering who are rich, well fed, arrogant, haughty, wicked and care nothing for following God or His commands. They live their lives apart from seeking God -they take no pains to obey Him, and yet, they seem to be blessed, and their wealth and ease seem to grow, even though they do bad things. Why, Oh God, are you allowing such people to be blessed?!
This is a big problem, and much of the amazingly underrated book of Habakkuk is about this one problem. Read it when you can. So – Asaph sees the wicked prospering, and sees himself seeking to live a holy and God-pleasing life, and yet suffering, and he rightly has some questions about this:
Did I purify my heart
and wash my hands in innocence for nothing?
14 For I am afflicted all day long
and punished every morning. Psalm 73:13-14
Asaph is so bothered by this, that he even gets to a place of hopelessness, but then, he goes to the right place and quite literally has an epiphany:
16 When I tried to understand all this,
it seemed hopeless
17 until I entered God’s sanctuary.
Then I understood their destiny.
Asaph goes in to worship God, and in that amazing way that worshipping and focusing on God has a way of opening our eyes and putting life in its proper perspective – Asaph’s eyes are opened, and he realizes the fate of the wicked and the ultimate fate of those who are Godly. He sees eternity. He sees that, even though a wicked person might prosper their entire lives – that is nothing compared to an eternity of suffering punishment:
18 Indeed, you put them in slippery places;
you make them fall into ruin.
19 How suddenly they become a desolation!
They come to an end, swept away by terrors. Psalm 73:18-19
Let me say it again: Asaph worships God in the sanctuary, and then his perspective is utterly changed. He had become embittered:
21 When I became embittered
and my innermost being was wounded,
22 I was stupid and didn’t understand;
I was an unthinking animal toward you.
But the act of worshipping God in the sanctuary seemingly causes scales to come off of his eyes, and He sees the goodness of the Lord and he is enabled to see with a much more eternal perspective. Worship is like that – when our eyes are on God and our hearts, minds and words are lifting Him up, the things of the world seem to grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace! (I should write a song about that)
The last four verses are a treasure – a genuine and beautiful reminder of God’s goodness and the fact that He is our refuge and strength. Remembering that David and Asaph went through so many physical and emotional and mental and spiritual trials, and yet were still able to proclaim the goodness of God is good for my heart. Knowing that they almost slipped, and God held on to them is good for my heart. Here are those last four verses:
Who do I have in heaven but you?
And I desire nothing on earth but you.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart,
my portion forever.
27 Those far from you will certainly perish;
you destroy all who are unfaithful to you.
28 But as for me, God’s presence is my good.
I have made the Lord God my refuge,
so I can tell about all you do. Psalm 73:25-28
Let’s read the whole Psalm together – we need to hear it more than once today.
Bible Memory verses for the month of September: 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. 2nd Timothy 3:16-17
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