Why do the wicked prosper and the righteous struggle?

That’s a question that most believers will ask at some point in their lives. Asaph, who was the leader of one of David’s Levitical choirs, delves into this thought in Psalm 73:

 Truly God is good to Israel, to those whose hearts are pure.
But as for me, I almost lost my footing. My feet were slipping, and I was almost gone.
For I envied the proud when I saw them prosper despite their wickedness.
They seem to live such painless lives; their bodies are so healthy and strong.
They don’t have troubles like other people; they’re not plagued with problems like everyone else.
They wear pride like a jeweled necklace and clothe themselves with cruelty.
These fat cats have everything their hearts could ever wish for!
They scoff and speak only evil; in their pride they seek to crush others.
They boast against the very heavens, and their words strut throughout the earth.
10 And so the people are dismayed and confused, drinking in all their words.
11 “What does God know?” they ask. “Does the Most High even know what’s happening?”
12 Look at these wicked people— enjoying a life of ease while their riches multiply.
13 Did I keep my heart pure for nothing? Did I keep myself innocent for no reason?
14 I get nothing but trouble all day long; every morning brings me pain.
15 If I had really spoken this way to others, I would have been a traitor to your people.
16 So I tried to understand why the wicked prosper. But what a difficult task it is!
17 Then I went into your sanctuary, O God, and I finally understood the destiny of the wicked.
18 Truly, you put them on a slippery path and send them sliding over the cliff to destruction.
19 In an instant they are destroyed, completely swept away by terrors.
20 When you arise, O Lord, you will laugh at their silly ideas as a person laughs at dreams in the morning.
21 Then I realized that my heart was bitter, and I was all torn up inside.
22 I was so foolish and ignorant— I must have seemed like a senseless animal to you.
23 Yet I still belong to you; you hold my right hand.
24 You guide me with your counsel, leading me to a glorious destiny.
25 Whom have I in heaven but you? I desire you more than anything on earth.
26 My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever.
27 Those who desert him will perish, for you destroy those who abandon you.
28 But as for me, how good it is to be near God! I have made the Sovereign Lord my shelter, and I will tell everyone about the wonderful things you do.

Asaph explains that until he entered God’s sanctuary, he could not understand the justice in allowing the wicked to thrive while the righteous endured hardship. But when he saw that one day justice would be done, he acknowledged God’s wisdom.

There are two strong themes, that wind their way through these verses:

1)The wicked prosper, leaving godly people wondering why they bother to be good

2)The wealth of the wicked looks so inviting that faithful people may wish they could trade spaces.

But these two themes come to unexpected ends for the wealth of the wicked suddenly loses its power at death, and the rewards of the godly suddenly take on eternal value.

What seemed like wealth is now waste, and what seemed worthless now lasts forever.

So don’t wish you could trade spaces with evil people to get their wealth. One day they will wish they could trade places with you and have your eternal wealth.

The rich who put their hope, joy and confidence in their wealth lives in a dream world. A dream only exists in the mind of the dreamer. So don’t let your life’s goals be so unreal that you awaken too late and miss the reality of God’s truth.

Happiness and hope can be a reality, but only when they are based on God, not on riches. Because reality is in God, we should get as close to him as we can in order to be realistic about life.

Asaph declares his confidence in God’s presence and guidance. From birth to death, we are continually in God’s grip. But far more, we have the hope of the resurrection. Though our courage and strength may fail, we know that one day, we will be raised to life to serve him forever. He is our security, and we must cling to him.

—Life Application Study Bible Footnotes