Arise, O LORD, confront him, bring him low;
Deliver my soul from the wicked with Your sword,
From men with Your hand, O LORD,
From men of the world, whose portion is in [this] life,
And whose belly You fill with Your treasure;
They are satisfied with children,
And leave their abundance to their babes.
As for me, I shall behold Your face in righteousness;
I will be satisfied with Your likeness when I awake.
Psalm 17:13-15 (NASB)
A lot of my reading lately has been in the book of Job, and one thing I've been thinking about is how we characterize Job's friends. Make no mistake, they were wrong about Job, and this made them terrible friends and worse comforters in his time of need. They were mistaken to think that they knew exactly what the wrath of God would look like, largely by assuming it would always happen in this life. They were especially wrong to think they could discern the will and plan of God without any help from God, just based on their own wisdom. They were wrong in a great many ways and, in the end, require Job's intercession on their behalf to avoid judgement themselves.
But they weren't entirely wrong about the content of their words. That is, they keep circling back to ideas that no man is truly blameless, that we all have sin and that this basic, common degree of sin is itself enough to justify the full wrath of God, which is a terrible thing to receive. They have a right understanding of fallen man, they have a right understanding of God as just and the judge of the living. They were wrong not because they knew wrong things, in fact much of what they say will come on evildoers is repeated elsewhere in scripture, but because they knew so little about the story that was actually playing out.
But David understands in the psalm above that God sometimes allows the unrepentant to have their best life now. To enjoy wealth and prosperity, to pass down their good things to children who will hoard them just as they have. And James warns us against showing favor to those for whom life seems to be going well, giving preference to the rich, and calls out those who gain their wealth through the unjust treatment of others to expect wrath to come. It is very tempting to look at our own situation and then look at the goodness that others experience and get angry or jealous. It is easy to lose hope that we are on the right path when the path is so hard to walk. It is easy to be like Job's friends and think that the outward experience of this life is an accurate measure of how well one is pleasing God. But like Job, we must look beyond the situation and cry out to the God who is behind it, and see that He is good, even if we don't understand what is happening right now. If we will be like David, seeking after God's face and taking our joy in knowing Him, we will not have the time or the energy to be weighed down with jealousy for the lives of others. We can trust that He who did not withhold His only Son will surely not hold back the good that He intends for us.
Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Copyright by The Lockman Foundation