Understanding the suffering of the righteous and the comfort of the wicked has perplexed people at least since the time of Job. This problem has led some to blame God, some to blame themselves, and some to blame anyone and everyone. Doctrinal confusion does not help. Those who confuse God’s sovereignty with absolute interference in everything unnecessarily create a contradiction, effectively treating even evil as God’s will. However, for most the problem is personal. They do not stop and contemplate doctrinal implications in the midst of a crisis; they simply want an explanation, just as Job did. Asaph, a chief singer appointed by David after he brought the ark to Jerusalem (1 Chr. 16:5), had such concerns and wrote what he learned from the experience in what we know as Psalm 73.
The challenge for God’s people lies in developing an eternal perspective while living in a temporal world. This is the key to appreciating the goodness of God and maintaining personal purity, especially when the world uses temporary circumstances to try to create doubt (Psa. 73:1-2). Now more than ever, we become aware of the wealth, power, and pleasures many in the world enjoy (Psa. 73:3-5) due to the interconnectedness of society through various media. Thus, people who would otherwise be content find new reasons to envy, sometimes just through a simple post on Facebook or Twitter. However, while the material wealth of the wicked may have an appeal, we too easily forget about the character many have used to procure it (Psa. 73:6-9). Christians marvel at their worldly friends who seem to have everything they could possibly desire. It would be easy, if divorced from eternity, to fall into the trap of accepting their philosophy and worldview in justification (Psa. 73:10-11). Such a snare, dependent upon a short-term view of man’s existence, has great spiritual consequences. When people concentrate solely on the material (Psa. 73:12), they also cease to appreciate the spiritual (Psa. 73:13), including the rebuke that God offers to such self-absorption (Psa. 73:14). It is thus this realization of the true consequences of worldliness and separation from the godly that provides a needed course correction to our thinking (Psa. 73:15). However, as Asaph found, the recognition of this conflict can be difficult, even after the decision to remain faithful to God (Psa. 73:16). But his next statement powerfully points all who follow back to righteousness: “Until I went into the sanctuary of God; Then I understood their end” (Psa. 73:17). Bowing down before God, bringing eternity into view, and listening to His Word brought all the perspective and answers he needed. God will judge the wicked (Psa. 73:18) and their wealth and power has an end (Psa. 73:19-20). The world presents itself as permanent, when it is the most temporary of all. Therefore, it is essential to remind ourselves daily of the value of the soul, the value of forgiveness, and the value of eternal life. These have lasting value with which material benefit cannot compare.
It is easy to fall under the spell of materialism and worldliness, and coming to your senses to see their folly can be a humbling experience (Psa. 73:21-22). But this can produce great growth as well, because we learn to trust the wisdom of God as the only sure Guide into eternity (Psa. 73:23-24). From this we learn true devotion and the true nature of this world (Psa. 73:25-27). And from this we gain a purpose that transcends the physical universe (Psa. 73:28). God does not condone wickedness, nor does He ignore it. He allows it today, and it tests us in the present. But the key is following God’s revealed will regardless, so that the eternal is what we follow into eternity.