Do the Righteous Really Suffer?

September 19, 2012 at 9:26 am | Posted in Selected Psalms | 7 Comments
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[A Psalm of Asaph.] Truly God is good to Israel, even to such as are of a clean heart.

Psalm 73:1

Asaph was a Levite and a worship leader in the sanctuary. He began to question God when he saw the unrighteous prospering and the righteous suffering.

But as for me, my feet were almost gone; my steps had well nigh slipped. For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

Psalm 73:2-3

Have you ever asked that same question: Why do the righteous suffer while the wicked prosper? It is actually the wrong question. Considering that no one has ever been righteous apart from Jesus, a better question would be: Why does anyone at all prosper?

Other Bible passages which deal with this same issue are Psalm 37, Psalm 49, Job, and Habakkuk. It is sometimes called “theodicy.” From our finite point of view, as fallen sinners living in a fallen world, we have a tendency to question why God (Who is omnibenevolent, omnipotent, and omniscient) would allow suffering or evil.

Asaph, despite his faulty questioning, wasn’t a complete fool. At least he never denied the existence of God. In verse 3 he stated that he was envious of the foolish, but he did recognize that they were foolish.

And they say, How doth God know? and is there knowledge in the most High? Behold, these are the ungodly, who prosper in the world; they increase in riches.

Psalm 73:11-12

It’s bad enough to question God’s goodness, but at least that’s somewhat honest. It falls more under the category of doubt than unbelief. But to question God’s existence? That’s idiotic and dishonest. I’m drawing a distinction between disbelief and unbelief. When it comes to unbelief in the existence of God, what we’re really talking about is just willful ignorance.

For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water:

II Peter 3:5

“Willingly ignorant,” as one preacher says, means “dumb on purpose.” It’s covering your eyes and ears and sticking your head in the sand, and saying I’m a blind deaf ostrich. Creation proves a Creator.

It is a sin to envy the wicked, but Asaph forgot that serving God is not a commercial transaction.

They are not in trouble as other men; neither are they plagued like other men.

Psalm 73:5

You know people like this. They are not serving God, and they are even in open rebellion against God, yet they seem to be getting away with it, and from all visible indications, it appears that they’re doing just fine.

Their eyes stand out with fatness: they have more than heart could wish.

Psalm 73:7

They have so many material possessions and treasures, and they appear to be so stuffed with blessings, that their eyes are bulging out.

They set their mouth against the heavens, and their tongue walketh through the earth.

Psalm 73:9

They claim that they don’t need God in Heaven because they’ve got everything they need here on earth. As my old Sunday School teacher used to say, their attitude is, “My name’s Jimmy, I’ll take all you gimme,” and people seem to do it! If somebody tells them, “You’re in trouble, you’re breaking God’s rules – you are going to need God one day,” their response is…

… How doth God know? and is there knowledge in the most High?

Psalm 73:11

Asaph’s frustration over his alleged lack of rewards for serving God was obvious:

Behold, these are the ungodly, who prosper in the world; they increase in riches. Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocency.

Psalm 73:12-13

He says, “I’m trying to do right – and it’s for nothing!” We have to be careful not to be like Asaph. Satan often tests true Christians. His temptation is: “Sure, you’re serving God, but that’s because you’re trying to buy His blessing. Let God take away your blessing and we’ll see what you do.” Do you see the tricky word in that challenge? It’s the word “your.” Satan is subtle and he likes to insinuate that blessings from God are something we have a “right” to, or something we “deserve.” Our response should be, “It’s okay if God takes away His blessings. I never deserved them in the first place!”

All our needs are supplied in Christ, regardless of how things look from the temporal, earthly perspective.

But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:19

And the devil can’t take anything away from you because you don’t “own” anything anyway – it’s all God’s! Next time, we’ll take a look at how Asaph got back on the right track.


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