Exodus 26, Proverbs 2, Psalm 73
Today’s readings are Exodus 26, Proverbs 2, and Psalm 73.
This devotional is about Psalm 73, with a few allusions to Proverbs 2.
Proverbs 2 seems to make several strong, blanket promises. Verses 7-8 says, “He [“the Lord”] holds success in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, for he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones.” Later in verses 21-22 we read, “For the upright will live in the land, and the blameless will remain in it; but the wicked will be cut off from the land, and the unfaithful will be torn from it.” These passages promise good things to the godly and wise and bad things to the wicked. Easy enough.
But Asaph’s experience in Psalm 73 was just the opposite. He nearly rejected the Lord because he “envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.” Verses 4-11 describe the sins of the ungodly, then verse 12 says, “This is what the wicked are like—always free of care, they go on amassing wealth.” Contrary to the claims of Proverbs 2 (and others), Asaph found that it was ungodly who prospered.
Meanwhile he felt, “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.” Instead of finding the success and prosperity that Proverbs seems to promise to the godly, Asaph struggled with affliction despite his pure heart and saw the godly prosper daily.
Eventually Asaph came to the same conclusion as Solomon: “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” (vv. 27-28). But how did he come to believe this? Verse 17: “till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny.” It wasn’t until he heard God’s word in the Tabernacle/Temple that Asaph understood that there would be eternal unhappiness for the wicked and eternal joy for the believer.
It is helpful to be reminded of this periodically. If we selectively compare ungodly people with our own experience, we will certainly find some wicked people who are prospering–or at least appear to be. Their prosperity, though, will be short-lived. In this world, wickedness eventually catches up with a person and godly eventually brings blessing. But there are some situations where the wicked receive no penalties and the godly receive no rewards in this life. Those are exceptions and they will be set straight in eternity when each of us stands before God.
As for the “promises” in Proverbs–they are not absolute promises but descriptions of what is generally true and what usually happens. Because God is sovereign, he overrules some situations. Sometimes godly people who honor their parents and live wisely still die young. In other cases, ungodly men may live a long time. But these are exceptions that God allows for his purpose. If you follow the lives of most people who walk with God, you will find that they live longer and are happier than their counterparts. Obedience usually brings great blessings so we should trust God, obey him, and let him decide if there will be exceptions to the laws he embedded in creation.