Lead us into Your holiness, our God, and let us always abide with You. Amen.
Text: Psalm 73:12–19
Behold, these are the ungodly, Who are always at ease; They increase in riches. 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 – 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.
When it goes well for the ungodly, then “there are no pangs in their death, But their strength is firm… Therefore pride serves as their necklace… Their eyes bulge with abundance… They scoff and speak wickedly concerning oppression… They set their mouth against the heavens, And their tongue walks through the earth” (Psa 73:4-9). Then the faithful are also tempted to ask in their heart: “How does God know? And is there knowledge in the Most High” (Psa 73:11)? Jeremiah says: “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” (Jer 12:1-2). It was not just the faithful of the old covenant who were troubled because the ungodly flourished and the saints fainted. The same question troubles us too. But when this happens on earth, it points beyond the temporal, to the eternal. Behind the veil of visible things there is another world, and we are there already, but our natural eye does not see it. We are all still children of this earth and our lot is cast here a little while. But all of us are also children of a spiritual world, each of us belongs either to heaven or hell and we have our own reward there. Yet only in God’s sanctuary can we understand it. All the ungodly who are not converted get a frightening end, but it is not seen by men. The rich man died and received an honorable burial and was lauded as blessed, but woke up – in hell! God is righteous and puts the wicked in slippery places. They are rich and healthy, yet this is at the same time God’s grace and God’s judgment. If they are poor and lowly, then that too is both a call of mercy and the chastisement of the righteous. But if they remain in sin, then everything becomes a greater judgment upon them.
If you are with the Lord, Christian friend, consider in the light of the Word His way of dealing with us human beings. Do not let your carnal thoughts, but the sense of the Spirit, strengthen your feelings, so your heart shall not be overflowing with longing envy for the prosperity of “the foolish,” but be strengthened with tender mercy toward them for their misery in the midst of their apparent glory! Such was always the manner and way of the faithful. “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” (Psa 73:25-26). “Nevertheless I am continually with You… You will guide me with Your counsel, And afterward receive me to glory” (Psa 73:23-24).
Give us God-fearing hearts so that we may know Your ways and regard Christ’s suffering, poverty, and cross as greater riches than all the prestige of the world. Give us this light. Give us this attitude, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
As a father never turneth
Wholly from a wayward child,
For the prodigal still yearneth,
Longing to be reconciled,
So my many sins and errors
Find a tender, pardoning God,
Chastening frailty with His rod,
Not in vengeance with His terrors.
All things else have but their day,
God’s great love abides for aye.
Since, then, neither change nor coldness
In my Father’s love can be,
Lo! I lift my hands with boldness,
As Thy child I come to Thee.
Grant me grace, O God, I pray Thee,
That I may with all my might,
All my lifetime, day and night,
Love and trust Thee and obey Thee
And, when this brief life is o’er,
Praise and love Thee evermore.
Gerhardt: I will sing my Maker’s praises L 459:9-10 ELH 448:5-6 tr. Composite;
tune: Sollt ich meinem Gott