Righteous are you, O LORD, when I plead with you: yet let me talk with you of your judgments: Why does the way of the wicked prosper?…
I. When you are repining at the prosperity of the wicked, and feel a consequent inclination to relax from your faith in Christ, remember that, IN THE REVELATION THROUGH JESUS CHRIST, WE ARE NOWHERE LED TO EXPECT THAT THE WICKED SHALL NOT BE PROSPEROUS HERE. "Ye will not come to Me that ye may have life," was the remonstrance of our Saviour. "This do, and thou shalt live," the injunction everywhere implied: — live, — not amidst the joys of this transitory scene, but at the right hand of God forever! The treasures of earth were never mentioned by Him to the faithful, but to guard them against their danger, and remind them of a "treasure in heaven." Christ knew the natural opposition of worldly prosperity to the lowly virtues of the Gospel; and, earnest for the everlasting interests of men, guarded them against the desire of things, the possession of which might be fatal: — and, if men would, by ways unwarranted by God, seek what God had forbidden, it was at the double peril of disobeying His commands, and disregarding His counsels.
II. THE GOSPEL HAS NOT ONLY FORBIDDEN US TO BE SURPRISED, OR ENVIOUS, AT THE PROSPERITY OF THE WICKED, BUT HAS POSITIVELY SHOWN US THAT A LIFE OF TRIBULATION FOR JESUS' SAKE IS THE PROPER PASSPORT TO HEAVEN. Nothing can be so glorious as the scenes which the Gospel has opened to our faith; but nothing so solemn as those through which we must pass to reach them. We are, in this life, in a state of dangerous apostasy from God: and the glare of prosperity is a light but very ill suited for us to behold. The sufferings of our Lord are held out to our view, that, "looking unto Jesus," who "left us an example, that we should follow His steps," we might take up our cross to do it. Why, then, do you ask, does the way of the wicked prosper? Why, rather ought ye to ask, should the believer in Christ repine at it? Why should he sigh for a state the very opposite to that in which His Saviour walked, and, if gained by sin, gained by means which brought that Saviour to the Cross, and would now open His wounds afresh?
III. Another argument which I would use, to check repining at the outward prosperity of sin, is, that IT IS, AT BEST, EXTREMELY OVERRATED, AND ITS NATURE VERY ILL UNDERSTOOD. It is by no means true that prosperity is confined to "the treacherous dealer and the wicked." God has indeed told us, that, to enter into His kingdom, we must meet with opposition, wrestle with contending evils, and pass the time of our sojourning here in fear. But the path, even to temporal blessings, is open to the believer in Christ, though He commands us not to make them the object of our ambition, nor expect them as the consequences of our faith. But, even were this not so, were prosperity confined to sin alone, we surely mistake its nature if its attractions dazzle us, and think but imperfectly of God if we mistrust His goodness. He has not so balanced the good and evil, of this. life as to make every attraction and every joy lie on the side of sin. "There is no peace to the wicked." "They may live in affluence, — but it is not peace. They may live in indolence, — but it is not peace." They may live in thoughtlessness, — but it is not peace. It is not that peace which a God of everlasting mercy can bestow, of which the soul of man, that was made for God, is capable, and for which it unceasingly longs. In talking of that peace of God, we talk of what it is impossible for those who have not experienced it to conceive.
IV. But the comprehensive argument, which closes at once all discussion and all doubts, is THE DISCLOSURE AND ADJUSTMENT OF ALL THE WAYS OF GOD IN THE GREAT DAY OF GENERAL RETRIBUTION. If there be a subject of contemplation sublimer than another, or completely interesting to the soul of reasonable man, it is surely the thought of being led hereafter to behold all the glorious works of the great and eternal God: — to see how, through all the amazing vicissitudes of time, He has conducted the affairs of worlds on worlds; and kept distinct, through all the crossings and confusions of myriads of foes, the strait and narrow path to heaven: — how from the jarring elements He reared the goodly frame of nature, and settled it in peace; and, uniting the still more jarring passions and infidel contentions of mankind, made all conspire to His eternal glory, and cooperate for the universal good!
(G. Mathew, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Righteous art thou, O LORD, when I plead with thee: yet let me talk with thee of thy judgments: Wherefore doth the way of the wicked prosper? wherefore are all they happy that deal very treacherously?