WISDOM FOR LIVING DAILY DEVOTIONAL
JUNE 21, 2021
TOPIC: WHY DO THE WICKED PROSPER?
BY T. O. BANSO
“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” (Jeremiah 12:1b-2 New King James Version).
The questions some people ask are borne out of their personal experience, the experience of others they have heard or read, or hypothetical cases. Don’t be too quick to condemn people because of their questions. You may need to first find out the reason they asked the question before you respond.
Sometimes the questions some people ask are not a true reflection of their belief. It may just be an expression of their current feeling such as the pain of depression. Some may just want to know what you feel or think, elicit some discussion, or clear their minds.
People asked different questions in the Bible. Some questions were between human beings but some were posed to God. For instance, in his trials, Job asked God some questions, hoping to get answers. But God didn’t answer him until towards the end of the book of Job.
When God finally answered Job out of the whirlwind, He didn’t answer the way one would have thought He would, considering that Job had suffered so much and was in despair. God answered Job with a torrent of questions that are recorded in Job 38:2-41, 39:1-30; Job 40:1-2, 6-24; 41:1-34.
After listening to God’s questions, Job had no answer. He quickly apologized and admitted that he had uttered what he did not understand and things too wonderful for him to know (Job 40:3-5; 42:3). Also, Job said, “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You. Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:5-6 New King James Version).
While people are free to ask God questions, He is not bound to give them the answers they want or answer them the way they like! Those in pain because of one tragedy or the other often ask God questions. It could be part of the healing process but God decides whether or not to answer or how He chooses to answer.
As much as God cares for human beings, especially, His children, nobody can query Him. He knows what is best for everyone. It is always wise to trust Him and believe that no matter what happens, He has our best interests at heart, even when we are hurting or mourning.
People have always asked God questions such as: Why do good people suffer? Why does God allow good people to die young? Why did God not answer the prayer to heal someone the believers prayed for and allowed him to die? There are other questions like these that people pose to God. While some people often help to defend God, it appears many people still wish they see God and let Him answer them Himself!
The prophet Habakkuk asked, “How long, O LORD, must I call for help? But you do not listen! ‘Violence!’ I cry, but you do not come to save. Must I forever see this sin and misery all around me? Wherever I look, I see destruction and violence. I am surrounded by people who love to argue and fight. The law has become paralyzed and useless, and there is no justice given in the courts. The wicked far outnumber the righteous, and justice is perverted with bribes and trickery” (Habakkuk 1:2-4 New Living Translation). In verses 5-11, the LORD answered Him. He also answered his second complaint (Habakkuk 1:12-17; 2:1-20).
The prophet Jeremiah suffered a lot in the ministry. He was poor, hated, rejected, imprisoned, etc. but God never abandoned him; He didn’t allow his enemies to prevail over him (Jeremiah 11:19-23; 20:10-11; 26:8-9; 36:21-26; Jeremiah 37; 38). In Jeremiah 11, the LORD revealed to him the plot of the men of Anathoth, his hometown, to kill him if he did not stop prophesying in the name of the LORD (Jeremiah 11:21).
The LORD told Jeremiah, “Behold, I will punish them. The young men shall die by the sword, their sons and their daughters shall die by famine; and there shall be no remnant of them, for I will bring catastrophe on the men of Anathoth, even the year of their punishment” (verse 23 New King James Version).
Immediately after this, Jeremiah told the LORD that He always gave him justice when he brought a case before Him
and made his complaint thus: “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” (Jeremiah 12:1b-2a New King James Version). The Hebrew word translated “the wicked” is rasha,` which means “morally wrong; concretely, an (actively) bad person – condemned, guilty, ungodly, wicked (man), that did wrong” (Strong’s Concordance).
Perhaps Jeremiah was overwhelmed by the persecutions he was facing, including the plot by his own people to kill him. If so, you can’t blame Jeremiah. Have you faced what he faced? Depression is a very serious affliction and even a servant of God can be afflicted by it. Depression could make some people ask some questions which are not a true reflection of who they really are. If you read some things this great prophet said, you would think Job, who also suffered depression, was speaking!
Hear Jeremiah: “Cursed be the day in which I was born! Let the day not be blessed in which my mother bore me! Let the man be cursed who brought news to my father, saying, ‘A male child has been born to you!’ Making him very glad” (Jeremiah 20:14-15 New King James Version).
Jeremiah continued, “And let that man be like the cities which the LORD overthrew, and did not relent; let him hear the cry in the morning and the shouting at noon, because he did not kill me from the womb, that my mother might have been my grave, and her womb always enlarged with me. Why did I come forth from the womb to see labor and sorrow, that my days should be consumed with shame?” (Verses 16-18 New King James Version).
Let’s go back to Jeremiah’s earlier questions about why the way of the wicked prospered and those who dealt so treacherously were happy. The New Living Translation puts the scripture thus: “Why are the wicked so prosperous? Why are evil people so happy? You have planted them, and they have taken root and prospered. Your name is on their lips, but in their hearts they give you no credit at all” (Jeremiah 12:1b-2).
The Bible in Basic English renders it thus: “Why does the evil-doer do well? Why are the workers of deceit living in comfort? They have been planted by you, they have taken root; they go on and give fruit: you are near in their mouths but far from their thoughts.”
Jeremiah was not the only person who addressed this issue in the Bible. Many people still ask the question today when they see how sinners live comfortably and honest people are struggling to survive. In some societies, the evildoers tend to advance more than the honest and law-abiding citizens, especially Christians who are living in obedience to the Word of God. Out of frustration, people ask the questions Jeremiah asked.
Jeremiah was concerned about the situation in his nation, Judah. He told God He knew him, had seen him, and tested his heart toward Him. Therefore, he pleaded with God to pull out the wicked like sheep for the slaughter and prepare them for the day of slaughter (Jeremiah 12:3).
Jeremiah added: “How long will the land mourn, and the herbs of every field wither? The beasts and birds are consumed, for the wickedness of those who dwell there, because they said, ‘He will not see our final end’” (Jeremiah 12:4 New King James Version).
If you expect God to give Jeremiah a comforting answer, you are wrong. Don’t forget God answered Job with a barrage of questions; He didn’t give him direct answers.
Here is God’s answer to Jeremiah’s questions: “If you have run with the footmen, and they have wearied you, then how can you contend with horses? And if in the land of peace, in which you trusted, they wearied you, then how will you do in the floodplain of the Jordan? For even your brothers, the house of your father, even they have dealt treacherously with you; yes, they have called a multitude after you. Do not believe them, even though they speak smooth words to you” (Jeremiah 12:5-6 New King James Version).
Did you see God’s answer? The implication of God’s answer was that Jeremiah should prepare for something worse than what he was complaining about that would happen. That didn’t mean that God endorsed the evil in the land. He eventually brought His judgment upon the nation. God is not the author of the injustice you see. The wicked are prospering because this is a fallen, broken world. God didn’t design it so.
Job, answering his critics, said, “The tents of robbers prosper, and those who provoke God are secure — in what God provides by His hand” (Job 12:6 New King James Version). This is true but it is not the end of the story. Those who are serving the Lord with their lips may be advancing in life but don’t let that discourage you from following the Lord.
The Lord said, “Inasmuch as these people draw near with their mouths and honor Me with their lips, but have removed their hearts far from Me, and their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men, therefore, behold, I will again do a marvelous work among this people, a marvelous work and a wonder; for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hidden” (Isaiah 29:13-14 New King James Version).
Some of the wicked who are prospering will reap part of what they have sown before they die. And those that people felt died well will still face the judgment of God (Hebrews 9:27). The psalmist said, “But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled; My steps had nearly slipped. For I was envious of the boastful, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked” (Psalm 73:2-3 New King James Version).
David warned, “Do not fret because of evildoers, nor be envious of the workers of iniquity. For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb” (Psalm 37:1-2 New King James Version). Don’t worry or complain about the prosperity of evildoers. This is not the end yet.
David said, “I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a native green tree. Yet he passed away, and behold, he was no more; Indeed I sought him, but he could not be found” (Psalm 37:35-36 New King James Version).
The writer of Psalm 73 said when he thought about how to understand why the wicked prospered, it was painful for him or a difficult task until he went into the sanctuary of God and understood their end. He saw that God put their feet where there was danger of slipping so that they went down into destruction (Psalm 73:16-17).
Verses 19-20 say, “Oh, how they are brought to desolation, as in a moment! They are utterly consumed with terrors. As a dream when one awakes, So, Lord, when You awake, You shall despise their image” (New King James Version).
Don’t be envious of the prosperity of the wicked. Everything doesn’t end here on earth. Live for eternity. What profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? (Matthew 16:26).
If you are not born again, you need to give your life to Jesus now. I urge you to take the following steps: *Admit you are a sinner and you cannot save yourself and repent of your sins. *Confess Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. *Renounce your past way of life – your relationship with the devil and his works. *Invite Jesus into your life. *As a mark of seriousness to mature in the faith, start attending a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church. There they will teach you how to grow in the Kingdom of God.
Kindly say this prayer now: O Lord God, I come unto you today. I know I am a sinner and I cannot save myself. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died on the cross to save me and resurrected the third day. I repent of my sins and confess Jesus as my Lord and Saviour. I surrender my life to Jesus now and invite Him into my heart. By this prayer, I know I am saved. Thank you, Jesus, for saving me and making me a child of God.
I believe you have said this prayer from your heart. Congratulations! You will need to join a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church in your area where they will teach you how to live your new life in Christ Jesus. I pray that you flourish like the palm tree and grow like the cedar of Lebanon. May you grow into Christ in all things and become all God wants you to be. I will be glad to hear from you. The Lord be with you.
PRAYER POINTS: I shall not worry about the prosperity of the wicked or seek to gain the whole world and lose my soul. Holy Spirit, help me not to forfeit eternity with God because of the things of this world. Help me to live for eternity.
(For over 600 in-depth and powerful messages by T. O. Banso, visit: www.cedarministry.org).
T. O. Banso is the President, Cedar Ministry International, Abuja, Nigeria.
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