I was reflecting on Psalm 73 and the psalmist’s reflection of his own weakness.
“But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold (verse 2).”
What then was the cause of this near slip? Put simply, misguided desire and misguided envy. His gaze moved from God to the ways of the world,
“For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked (verse 4).”
It seemed to the writer that the ungodly had it made,
“They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. They are free from common human burdens; they are not plagued by human ills (verse 5).”
Who wouldn’t want such a life? Wow, no struggles, no illness, a life of ease.
It is interesting that in the Nazis’ rise to power there was one recurrent theme. Prosperity! Prosperity! and Prosperity! Hitler promised jobs, living space, and yet again prosperity. This may have been a big lie, but it was a big lie told simply, and repeated until it sank in. Much as no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. They are free from common human burdens; they are not plagued by human ills does. But at what cost? The Psalmist next catches a glimpse of this,
“Therefore pride is their necklace; they clothe themselves with violence. From their callous hearts comes iniquity their evil imaginations have no limits. They scoff, and speak with malice; with arrogance they threaten oppression. Their mouths lay claim to heaven, and their tongues take possession of the earth. Therefore their people turn to them and drink up waters in abundance. They say, “How would God know? Does the Most High know anything?” This is what the wicked are like— always free of care, they go on amassing wealth (verses 6-12).”
Solomon had written that “there is nothing new under the sun,” and this violent, selfish, boastfulness is evident throughout the ages. The illusion of worldly wealth, and not just keeping up with the Jones, but being the Jones is sought after by many. The psalmist saw it in Psalm 73, historians and political scientists such as Andreas Clemens see it in Hitler’s promises, and even much of the “new right” takes the view today.
“We shall prosper!” Yet to do so sometimes relies on violence (actual or threatened), it has a callousness to the plight of others. The abundance for one is at the expense of another. Scapegoats are exploited, and the “have littles” are relegated to being “have nots,” so others can be “have mores.”
But the psalmist does not leave us here with his own “slipping” towards the lie. He rather returns to the truth. Evil may appear to prosper, but it will in the end have its comeuppance! “Those who are far from you will perish; you destroy all who are unfaithful to you. But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds (verses 27-28).”
Where is your refuge today. In the “greener grass” of someone else’s field, the prosperity of this age, or in the Lord?