"…And all that were numbered of you, according to your whole number… shall not come into the land."
Numbers 14:29, 30
King James Version
"The Sun Shines on Everyone"
"Temporal blessings are not definite marks of divine favor, since God gives them to the unworthy, and to the wicked, as well as to the righteous."
C. H. Spurgeon
Have I wondered why God's blessings fall on the wicked?
Have I ever felt that, like all the children of Israel, the obedient were suffering the consequences of the disobedient?
"God does not lead His children around hardship, but leads them straight through hardship. But He leads! And amidst the hardship, He is nearer to them then ever before."
"For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked… They are not in trouble as other men; neither are they plagued like other men… Their eyes stand out with fatness; they have more than heart could wish."
Psalm 73: 3,5, 7
King James Version
I remember when I was in elementary school and frequently certain kids in class would become loud and disruptive. Our teacher decided on a very predictable punishment – no recess. Instead, he kept us in the classroom sitting at our desks. Mind you, it wasn't just the loudmouths or trouble-makers. Everyone was penalized. The loud and quiet alike. The rowdy and the calm. We were all dumped into the bag together.
After reading Numbers 14, I almost felt as though I were back in elementary school as I thought about "all" the children of Israel going back to the wilderness for 40 years rather than moving forward into Canaan, the Promised Land. Just think about Caleb and Joshua and their wives and children. They had been on God's team. They had valiantly stood up for the Creator of the universe. They had claimed God's promises and even encouraged all the desert wanderers to trust God when they said, "Let us go forward."
What did Caleb and Joshua get in return for their faithfulness? Forty more years in the wilderness!! I don't know about you, but that doesn't seem fair to me. The good getting hit with the consequences of the evil. It didn't seem right at that time and it doesn't seem right today. The good suffering from the behavior of the wicked. And yet, we see it happening all over the world right now. Innocent blood is shed by vindictive, mean people. The wicked seem to be living on easy street, abusing their power as they take advantage of those who are unable to defend themselves.
The other night, I was watching a television program where a gentleman was discussing "usury," which he defined as the wealthy preying upon the poor by lending money at an exorbitant rate of interest. And while this was not a religious discussion, he took great lengths to point out that the Bible and the Torah specifically forbid this abusive behavior. You'd never know "usury" was illegal if you listened to the evening news reports!
Everyday, you and I witness the morning sun shining down on the good and the evil. And when the soft drops of rain fall from the heavens, they water the ground owned by evil and good. If you're like me, you might say to yourself, "It isn't fair!" If this is your response, you aren't alone for many years ago, the Psalmist David struggled with the fact that everything seemed to go so well for the wicked. If you think you're alone in feeling it isn't fair for the good to suffer with the evil, take a few minutes today to read Psalm 73. Poor David had it! In blunt honesty he told God he was envious of the wicked. Here are a few of the advantages David told God he had witnessed when he took a look around him and saw how life appeared to be humming along without a ripple for evil people. "Their strength is firm. They are not in trouble. They are not plagued like other men. Their eyes stand out with fatness. They have more than heart could wish. They speak loftily." And then, as if to underscore the absolute absurdity of the situation, David said, "Behold, these are the ungodly, who prosper in the world; they increase in riches" (Psalm 73: 12, K.J. V.). It's as if David is saying to God, "After giving you the description of people who have strength and no trouble and no problems and nothing to worry about and everything their hearts desire, did you think I was describing Your children – Your sons and daughters, the 'obedient' ones? Well, I wasn't! I want You to know, I was telling You about all the lousy, rotten, wickedly corrupt people who oppress Your children. These are the ones who say, 'God isn't watching us. God let's us get by with our abusive behavior!'"
David was so frustrated with the situation he went so far as to tell God, "Verily, I have cleansed my heart in vain" (Psalm 73: 13, K.J.V.). David felt as though doing right had been worthless. What's the reason to be good if the good only suffer while the wicked prosper?
It's a depressing look at the way things happen on planet earth, that is until you and I do what David did. In Psalm 73: 17, we find David in God's sanctuary or as the Hebrew says, "Standing in God's chapel on holy ground." It was on holy ground before His heavenly Father that David saw the "end" of evil. And what he recognized was that God – his God – our God – was watching all along. Not only that, David found out, "Thou hast holden me by my right hand. Thou shalt guide me with Thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory" (Psalm 73: 23, 24). And then David adds one more critical point we should not overlook. "For, lo, they that are far from Thee shall perish" (Psalm 73: 27). Then David, who was trying to walk in God's path, could go to His Father in the Holy place, unlike the wicked who were "far from Thee." As John Newton so eloquently penned, "God's people have no assurances that the dark experiences of life will be held at bay, much less that God will provide some sort of running commentary on the meaning of each day's allotment of confusion, boredom, pain, or achievement. It is not great matter where we are, provided we see that the Lord has placed us there, and that He is with us."
"From heaven even the most miserable life will look like one bad night in an inconvenient hotel."
Teresa of Avila
"Help us, Lord
to follow where You walk
to stop where You stumble
to grieve where You die
to dance where You rise again,
knowing that this is the only way.
there is no other way."
John L. Bell
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
(Available May 2009)