They are exalted for a little while, but are gone and brought low; they are taken out of the way as all other…
Job is here taking a step towards the solution of the problem that his misfortunes have raised. Rejecting the hackneyed doctrine of his friends that trouble comes as the temporal punishment of sin, and seeing that bad men often escape trouble, he concludes that all the injustice is but temporary. The prosperity of the wicked is but for "a little while." Before long there will be a fair treatment of all.
I. WICKEDNESS MAY BE ACCOMPANIED BY TEMPORARY PROSPERITY,
1. This is an obvious fact. Only the extraordinary blindness of bigotry could have allowed the three friends to deny it. Job has only to point to events which are open to the eyes of all, to show that there are bad prosperous men. This is always admitted when it is approached from another point of view, i.e. when the sins of the rich are denounced.
2. This should not dismay us. All faith has grown up in face of the obvious fact of the prosperity of the wicked. If we have not considered it, others have in bygone ages. Yet faith has flourished and triumphed, although she could not explain the mystery. Therefore faith may still find ground to stand on, even when one more person discovers to his surprise what has always been patent to all who would take the trouble to observe it.
3. This cannot justify wickedness. Earthly prosperity is not the seal of heavenly approval. The assumption that it is so only originated in a mistake. Here ancient orthodoxy has proved to be in error. If the notion is erroneous when used against a man in misfortune, it is equally erroneous when claimed by one who is temporarily prosperous.
II. THE PROSPERITY THAT ACCOMPANIES WICKEDNESS CAN ONLY ENDURE FOR A LITTLE WHILE.
1. It does not outlast death. By the nature of things it cannot do so, because it simply springs from accidental circumstances and earthly influences, which are confined to this life. It has not its source in a deep and enduring spiritual experience. The very triumph of it rests on the score of the spiritual. But though the spiritual may be trampled on now, it cannot be pretended that the material will continue after death. Riches, pleasures, pomp, and prowess are all left behind on this side of the grave.
2. Its earthly existence is brief. The careless man may postpone all consideration of his end. He may be satisfied that he has enough and to spare for the present. Nevertheless, the present is rushing away from him. As he looks back, all past years seem to be but a brief period, and coming years will accelerate their speed. What, then, is this short tenure of prosperity for which he is selling himself? A passing shadow!
3. It is of/ no worth even while possessed. The temporary character of this prosperity of the wicked is a sign that it is a hollow deception. Its charms are proved to be meretricious by the fact that it will not remain with us. So ephemeral a good cannot be substantial. The seeds of decay are in it from the first. And what is its joy but a deceitful mockery? There is a dreadful doom in the very quietness of this hopeless life. All that is worth living for is gone out of it. Rich, gay, outwardly prosperous, the soul is
"Left in God's contempt apart,
With ghastly smooth life, dead at heart." W.F.A.
Parallel VersesKJV: They are exalted for a little while, but are gone and brought low; they are taken out of the way as all other, and cut off as the tops of the ears of corn.