When the wicked prosper

Take refuge in the Lord

This devotional is inspired by the question “What now?” as church leaders assess the changes that have come about due to COVID-19.


Psalm 73 reflects the understandable frustration when the expectations of Psalm 1 do not pan out in lived experience.

Here the psalmist sees the “prosperity (shalom) of the wicked” rather than the ‘righteous.’ Their ‘peace’ is comprehensive and ‘in your face’ – they are physically healthy, well-fed and do not suffer problems. To make matters worse, they don’t hide their wickedness but are full of pride and “threaten oppression,” multiplying their wealth while others suffer.

In short, exactly those whose way should “perish” (Psalm 1:6) are not only doing well, but lording it over others. The world is upside down…

The psalmist despairs. Like Job, he wonders whether there was no point in keeping his “heart clean” or being innocent. Despite his best efforts, the predictable reward that Psalm 1 suggests simply isn’t happening; it’s not fair!

The striking change of perspective, his moment of reorientation, occurs upon entering the sanctuary (vs 17).

He is convinced that the prosperity of the wicked is temporary; he still hopes that they will stumble, but it might take a while. Even more importantly, no longer is the LORD seen as ‘Santa Claus,’ who punishes the ‘naughty’ and rewards the ‘nice’; relationship with God has become its own reward.

“Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire other than you,” (Psalm 73:25).

Though the psalmist does not completely move away from a retributive mindset (v. 27 repeats the conviction that “those who are far from you will perish”), the determining factor now has become relational (one’s nearness or distance from God). Rather than being envious of the prosperity of the wicked, as at the outset, the psalmist revels in a closer relationship with God.

The final claim underscores a crucial motif in the Psalms, often linked to prayer itself (compare with Psalm 2:11; 91:2). The act of coming to God, in frustration and even anger, represents a key way of “taking refuge” in the LORD.

—An MWC article by W. Derek Suderman, professor of Old Testament (theological studies) at Conrad Grebel University College, Canada, who attends Stirling Ave. Mennonite Church, Kitchener, Ont., Canada.


Recognizing how the pandemic has changed rituals, habits and expectations around church-going, MennoMedia has developed a series of devotionals, reflections, and practical tools is meant to equip pastors and congregations and nurture community: “What now? Leading churches through COVID.”

 

Learn more about MennoMedia’s series and download resources (in English) here

 

What now? August resource

 

What now? September resource

 

What now? October resource

 

What now? November resource

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