Why does God let evil people prosper?

A recent sermon at my church addressed the spiritual discipline of dealing with wicked people. The sermon was based on Psalm 73, a psalm of Asaph. Asaph was a Levite priest appointed by David to give praise to the Lord. In this psalm, Asaph almost seems to be accusing God as he struggles to understand how God could let wicked people prosper. Even though we lived in very different times, Asaph could have been speaking for me. I have struggled to understand why God lets evil people get away with wickedness. Why doesn’t God punish them? Where is his justice?

Surely God is good…

Asaph started the psalm saying that “surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.” Like Asaph, I know that God is good. God is loving. God is merciful. God is faithful. Through his commandments, God has shown me what is good and I know what he requires of me – to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with Him (Micah 6:8).

Now all has been heard;
    here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
    for this is the duty of all mankind.
For God will bring every deed into judgment,
    including every hidden thing,
    whether it is good or evil.

Ecclesiastes 12:13-14

Surely God blesses the pure in heart. Surely God blesses peacemakers. Surely God blesses the merciful. Surely God blesses the poor in spirit. Surely God blesses those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.

Surely God is faithful and just. Surely all his precepts are trustworthy.

and yet the wicked prosper…

Asaph saw, just as I see today, that the wicked prosper. They don’t have a care in the world. They enjoy good health. They are strong. They seem to escape the struggles and misfortunes that everyone else faces. They take possession of the earth and their mouths even lay claim to heaven!

The wicked are clearly not doing God’s will. Surely God sees what they are doing. They oppress and mistreat the weak and defenseless. They are violent and abusive and malicious. Their hearts are callous. They are selfish and greedy and arrogant and deceitful.

And yet the wicked always seem to find plenty of people who are willing to defend their immorality and corruption. They think that God is not paying attention. They believe they will never be held to account. Why wouldn’t they be carefree? They have always gotten away with breaking God’s laws. There seem to be no consequences to being bad.

Surely in vain, I have kept my heart pure

Asaph was afflicted, troubled, aggrieved, embittered. He found himself envying wicked people because they seemed to be doing well despite their disobedience. I too have been distressed by the success of the wicked. Why aren’t they being held to account? It seems pointless to be righteous. Where is the reward in being a good person? Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure.

My portion forever

When Asaph entered the sanctuary of God, he understood the things that troubled him so. The prosperity of the wicked is temporary. In the most holy place, in the presence of God, Aspah could see that there is nothing to envy in wickedness. They are destined for destruction. Asaph understood that God will cast the wicked down to ruin. Unless they repent, they will be destroyed, separated from God forever.

When it seems like evil people are getting away with wickedness, when they escape justice at the hands of man, remember this: God will bring every deed into judgment. Be patient and wait on the Lord. Do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day (2 Peter 3:8).

****

Thank you, Lord for always being with me. Thank you for guiding me and showing me your truth. Thank you for showing me that my treasure is in heaven. This earth has nothing I want or need more than you. You are my strength and my portion forever. I will sing your praises and tell the world of your wonderful deeds!

****

A psalm of Asaph (Psalm 73, NIV)

Surely God is good to Israel,
    to those who are pure in heart.

But as for me, my feet had almost slipped;
    I had nearly lost my foothold.
For I envied the arrogant
    when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

They have no struggles;
    their bodies are healthy and strong.
They are free from common human burdens;
    they are not plagued by human ills.

Therefore pride is their necklace;
    they clothe themselves with violence.
From their callous hearts comes iniquity;
    their evil imaginations have no limits.
They scoff, and speak with malice;
    with arrogance they threaten oppression.
Their mouths lay claim to heaven,
    and their tongues take possession of the earth.
Therefore their people turn to them
    and drink up waters in abundance.
They say, “How would God know?
    Does the Most High know anything?”

This is what the wicked are like—
    always free of care, they go on amassing wealth.

Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure
    and have washed my hands in innocence.
All day long I have been afflicted,
    and every morning brings new punishments.

If I had spoken out like that,
    I would have betrayed your children.
When I tried to understand all this,
    it troubled me deeply
till I entered the sanctuary of God;
    then I understood their final destiny.

Surely you place them on slippery ground;
    you cast them down to ruin.
How suddenly are they destroyed,
    completely swept away by terrors!
They are like a dream when one awakes;
    when you arise, Lord,
    you will despise them as fantasies.

When my heart was grieved
    and my spirit embittered,
I was senseless and ignorant;
    I was a brute beast before you.

Yet I am always with you;
    you hold me by my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
    and afterward you will take me into glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
    And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
    but God is the strength of my heart
    and my portion forever.

Those who are far from you will perish;
    you destroy all who are unfaithful to you.
But as for me, it is good to be near God.
    I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge;
    I will tell of all your deeds.

The Nightmare of Imperious

I’ve taken the liberty of treating the adjective imperious as if it were a noun because for some reason it reminded me of the word Aquarius. That brought to mind the Age of Aquarius song. Imperious means assuming power or authority without justification, which reminded me of you-know-who.

When a reality star acquires power
‘Cause people wanted a savior
Greed guides their new oppressor
And his rage fuels vile behavior
This is the Nightmare of Imperious
The Nightmare of Imperious
Imperious
Imperious

Division and discord abounding
Hostility and fear resounding
Bald-faced lies and aspersions
Malignant narcissist delusions
The audacious authoritarian rises
And the whole world he surprises
Imperious
Imperious

Let the truth win, let the truth win, let sanity win
Let the truth win, let the truth win, let sanity win
Let the truth win, let the truth win, let sanity win

Oh, it’s let Mueller time, c’mon
Now all who love truth sing along
Truth and justice will march on
Speak truth to power and watch truth march on
When you’re discouraged, let truth march on
We’ll wake from this bad dream and truth’ll march on
And when you feel like you’ve been lied to
When the arc of the moral universe seems too long
Just remember it bends to justice, and let the truth march on

****

Daily word prompt: imperious

https://onedailyprompt.wordpress.com/2018/12/08/your-daily-word-prompt-imperious-December-8-2018/

Love Foreigners as Yourself

The current immigration crisis has really exposed people for the heartless hypocrites they are. What a hypocrite Jeff Sessions was to use Romans 13 to excuse this administration’s immoral and inhumane immigration policies. Sessions completely misses the heart of the gospel. For those who claim to worship God, there is no greater authority than God who said, love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord. Keep my decrees.

When one of the pages I follow listed Bible verses that specifically address how immigrants should be treated, a guy who can’t spell said this:

“I think no one who written that had expected this super-massive inmigration crysis. This applies for a normal inmigration status, but not for an invasion, because that’s not one or two inmigrants, that’s just a non declared invasion. Wake up.”

What made this guy think he can interpret God’s word better than Moses? Did he go back in time and take a head count of the number of immigrants?

Wake up yourself, you fool.

The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.

Leviticus 19:34

I woke up in the middle of the night last night thinking about the children separated from their parents at the border. I cried and I prayed that God would protect them.

I thought about a comment I heard yesterday on K-Love radio about a child being the greatest gift God gives us. How inhumane it is that our government thinks it is just to take a child from the parents God entrusted with caring for them. How heartbreaking it is for the caregivers who cannot comfort them.

I thought about the business trip I took to New York when I saw the Statue of Liberty from a distance. It stands as an enduring symbol of this nation’s history of welcoming immigrants. “Bring me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

The New Colossus (Emma Lazarus, 1883)

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
MOTHER OF EXILES. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

I just heard King Trump say that we’re going to move to a system of merit not luck or happenstance. I wish that he could walk even one mile in the shoes of the mothers and fathers who came to the border of this country seeking asylum. The luck belongs to those of us who were born here. I wish that Trump knew what God’s grace is. None of us merits God’s mercy.

I will end with this verse from Romans 14. It brings me comfort to know that God is watching. So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.

Scoffing at Deceit

Yesterday, I read the psalm David wrote after Doeg the Edomite, King Saul’s chief herdsman, betrayed the High Priest, Ahimelech (Psalm 52), which resulted in Ahimelech’s death. David’s description of Doeg reminds me of the wicked man I see in the news everyday. Like Doeg, he regularly practices deceit, loves evil rather than good, and loves falsehood rather than speaking the truth. When I hear him speak, I find myself laughing at the absurdity of his claims.

Why do you boast of evil, you mighty hero?
    Why do you boast all day long,
    you who are a disgrace in the eyes of God?
You who practice deceit,
    your tongue plots destruction;
    it is like a sharpened razor.
You love evil rather than good,
    falsehood rather than speaking the truth.    Selah
You love every harmful word,
    you deceitful tongue!

The evildoer of today is considered a hero to his followers, sadly even to millions of people who call themselves “evangelicals.” But surely he is a disgrace in the eyes of God.

David was sure that God would bring Doeg down to everlasting ruin. I also trust that God will judge this evildoer. And when the Lord brings him to his knees, this “hero” will beg for God’s mercy and the righteous will laugh saying (Psalm 52:6-7):

“Here now is the man
    who did not make God his stronghold
but trusted in his great wealth
    and grew strong by destroying others!”

Knowing that God will eventually bring this man to justice does not fill me with joyful laughter. While I wait for God’s justice, the evildoer destroys others.

If he is going to boast, he should not boast of his riches. If he is going to boast, he should not boast of his business successes. If he is going to boast, he should not boast of his knowledge. If he is going to boast, he should not boast of ratings.

If he is going to boast, let him boast that he knows the heart of God (Jeremiah 9:24).

24 but let the one who boasts boast about this:
    that they have the understanding to know me,
that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness,
    justice and righteousness on earth,
    for in these I delight,”
declares the Lord.

Selah

 

via Daily Prompt: Laughter

My Favorite Agitator

Daily Prompt: Churn

In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. , I am sharing an article I wrote about him about five years ago. The verb churn means to agitate. To agitate is to stir things up or to arouse public concern over an issue in the hope of prompting action. He certainly did that.

A Drum Major for Justice

My husband received a couple of books about Martin Luther King, Jr. as gifts – A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of MLK, Jr. and Let the Trumpet Sound: A Life of Martin Luther King, Jr. [Stephen B. Oates]. I read part way through the first book and decided I would rather read the biography. The biography gave me a better understanding of the monumental struggle for racial equality in this country and a great appreciation for King’s inspirational leadership of his people. But reading about King’s life also taught me several lessons about standing up for social justice today.


1. God and Human Worth.  In explaining the timing of the civil rights movement, King noted that blacks had gradually learned to value themselves even as they continued to experience the humiliating effects of segregation and discrimination. One reason behind this increasing sense of self-worth was their Christian faith. When you believe that  you were created in God’s image and that God loved you enough to send his Son to die for your sins, you understand that you have worth as a human being regardless of your color.

 

Those of us who call the name of Jesus Christ find something at the center of our faith which forever reminds us that God is on the side of truth and justice.  – MLK, The Current Crisis in Race Relations

The worth of an individual does not lie in the measure of his intellect, his racial origin, or his social position. Human worth lies in his relatedness to God. – MLK, The Ethical Demands for Integration

 

King often referred to his brothers and sisters as “children of God.” The New Testament describes the believer’s relationship to God as a relationship based on faith in Christ, a relationship that is demonstrated by love for our fellow-man.

 

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. – Galatians 3:26-29

 

This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister. – 1 John 3:10

 

2. Using God’s Gifts for Good. King was an intelligent man, educated, and well-read. He could have been an attorney or a college professor or lived the quiet, relatively peaceful life of a clergyman. Instead, he chose to help his people begin the struggle against oppression from the segregated city of Birmingham, Alabama. One of his greatest gifts was his way with words. He used colorful language and the tone of his voice to inspire, motivate and persuade. He repeated key phrases (“I have a dream…”) and sprinkled his speeches and writings with metaphors. In the I Have a Dream speech, he compared the march for justice to cashing a check that has been returned marked “insufficient funds.” He compared the Declaration of Independence to a promissory note. He understood the importance of choosing your words carefully because words can have negative connotations. He objected to the words “black power,” which could suggest violence and the same sort of racial supremacy that he was fighting against.

 

3. Shedding Light on the Darkness of our Times. King showed the world that the Emancipation Proclamation did not put an end to racism. Though blacks were no longer slaves, they still faced the degradation of segregation and discrimination one hundred years later. Today, fifty years after the March on Washington, it is shocking to me to read about the state of racial relations in our country at that time and to read about how hateful whites were towards blacks. Racial discrimination is a dark and ugly sickness of the soul that is completely at odds with God’s will. In my opinion, we have not come far enough in fifty years, but I am grateful that King exposed racism for the evil that it is. He made a difference.
4. Courage. It takes a great deal of spiritual courage to stand up for what is right, especially when you know that it puts your life at risk. King knew that his actions as a civil rights activist put him in physical danger and that he would likely lose his life for his cause. When he was arrested, he chose to be jailed rather than pay a fine because he wanted to highlight how unjust the laws were. He bravely led marches in some of the most racist cities in the South. He turned threats into opportunities. With his notoriety, being jailed brought national attention to the civil rights movement.
5. Serving Others. A couple of months before his assassination, in a sermon called “The Drum Major Instinct,” King preached about the natural instinct people have to be first. He quoted Jesus Christ who said “whosoever will be great among you, shall be your servant; and whosoever of you who will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all.”

We all want to be important, to surpass others, to achieve distinction, to lead the parade. – MLK

Although King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, he wanted to be remembered as someone who gave his life to serving others, as a man who loved others, cared for the hungry, clothed the naked, visited the imprisoned.

 

If you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice; say that I was a drum major for peace; I was a drum major for righteousness.

If I can do my duty as a Christian ought, if I can bring salvation to a world once wrought, if I can spread the message as the master taught, then my living will not be in vain.

6. Loving Your Enemies. Other civil rights activists chose to fight against racial inequality with violence; King chose to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ. There was a moment when he hated whites for the way they treated blacks but he understood that hate begets hate; violence begets violence. He admired Gandhi and used Gandhi’s life as an example of how to live out Christ’s love in the pursuit of justice. King often talked about the concept of agape, the selfless, sacrificial kind of love described in the Bible. As Jesus noted, it is easy to love those who love you; anyone can do that.

 

You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. – Matthew 5:43-48

7. God’s Redeeming Grace. King’s image as an American hero was tarnished by allegations that he was an adulterer. There is some evidence of this. J. Edgar Hoover was so determined to dig up dirt on King that the FBI bugged his hotel rooms and tapped his phone lines. I mention King’s sin last, not to minimize it, but because at the end of the day, even our heroes have feet of clay. The biographer, Stephen B. Oates, quoted King as saying that “Each of us is two selves and the great burden of life is to always try to keep that higher self in command. Don’t let the lower self take over.”

The apostle Paul wrote about his own struggle to keep the higher self in command (Romans 7:14-20). When Paul prayed about his own weaknesses, the Lord told him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” To borrow King’s metaphor, God’s bank of mercy always has sufficient funds.

When I read about King’s  assassination, I felt grief even though he died years ago. He was a drum major for justice, for peace and for righteousness. I also feel thankful for his “marching band” – the unsung heroes of the civil rights movement. They marched for justice, rode the bus for justice, sat at segregated lunch counters for justice, even gave their lives for justice.

Here are King’s own words from his Nobel prize acceptance speech, wherein he honored the “ground crew” for enabling the “flights to freedom” to leave the ground:

 

Most of these people will never make the headlines and their names will not appear in Who’s Who. Yet the years have rolled past and when the blazing light of truth is focused on this marvelous age in which we live–men and women will know and children will be taught that we have a finer land, a better people, a more noble civilization–because these humble children of God were willing to suffer for righteousness’ sake.

We need more people in this world with the courage to stand up for justice. We need more people who know how to love sacrificially.