The mind is often sorely tried by seeing the wicked in
such great prosperity. Doubts are disposed to rise in reference to God's
righteous government. But these doubts soon vanish when His purpose and will
are scripturally weighed. An increase of confidence is the happy result.
1. "Truly God is good to Israel, even to such as are
of a clean heart."
It is sweet happiness to have clear knowledge of the
goodness of our God. It should be a frequent prayer that He would make all
His goodness pass before us, and that He would proclaim in our hearts His
glorious name, especially in the wonders of redemption.
We should, also, mark well our character to see if
it be that of the family of His love. They are described as clean of heart.
Not only are they clean from all outward stains of evil by the cleansing
application of the expiating blood, but they are clean, also, by the mighty
indwelling of the Spirit working through the wonders of the Word. "Now you
are clean through the word which I have spoken to you."
2-3. "But as for me, my feet were almost gone; my
steps had nearly slipped. For I was envious of the foolish, when I saw the
prosperity of the wicked."
From the contemplation of God's goodness the Psalmist
turns to confession of his own weakness. His steps had been tottering—not
firmly set in the narrow way of life—not boldly climbing Zion's upward hill.
He had wavered, he had stumbled, he almost had a grievous fall. But what was
the occasion of such inconstancy? He saw the ungodly. Prosperity smiled on
their path—their cup of happiness seemed to overflow. The Psalmist was
staggered. Such dealings seemed inconsistent with God's righteous
4-5. "For there are no bands in their death; but their
strength is firm. They are not in trouble as other men; neither are they
plagued like other men."
Examples are given of their untroubled course. To many
the bed of sickness is a bed of deep distress. Pains and weakness bring
sufferings to the declining frame. From such anguish the wicked are
sometimes free. They have lived in ease, in ease they now depart. The common
lot of trouble has not been theirs. While other men were emptied from vessel
to vessel of affliction, they have reposed on the soft pillow of comfort and
6-7. "Therefore pride compasses them about as a chain;
violence covers them as a garment. Their eyes stand out with fatness; they
have more than heart could wish."
But is such prosperity in itself a blessing? Unsanctified
by the grace of God, it really has the character of curse. Elated by their
seeming superabundance, they regard themselves as high above their
fellow-men. Pride seems to encompass them; violence is the robe in which
they strut. Their very appearance indicates luxurious self-indulgence; and
their possessions surpass their utmost desires. Such is the state to which
prosperity will sink a graceless heart.
8-10. "They are corrupt, and speak wickedly concerning
oppression; they speak loftily. They set their mouth against the heavens;
and their tongue walks through the earth. Therefore His people return here;
and waters of a full cup are wrung out to them."
There is no check to the workings of their deep-seated
corruption. This is evidenced by the proud blasphemy of their words. They
openly profess oppression. There are no limits on earth to the outgoings of
their presumptuous language. They scale the very heaven of heavens, and
madly insult God upon His throne.
11-12. "And they say, How does God know? and is there
knowledge in the Most High? Behold, these are the ungodly, who prosper in
the world; they increase in riches."
The Psalmist confesses the evil conclusion which in his
weakness he was prone to make. It seemed an easy inference that if God
abhorred evil He would not distinguish the wicked by seeming tokens of
approval. The increase of their wealth seems an evidence of their being in
His favor. But a word is added which unmasks the cheat. They have prosperity
indeed, but it is prosperity only in this world. But the world is a vain
show. It passes away and the lusts thereof. They in their lifetime "receive
their good things."
13-14. "Truly I have cleansed my heart in vain, and
washed my hands in innocence. For all the day long have I been plagued, and
chastened every morning."
We have dreadful warning here that Satan will often urge
God's children to form erroneous conclusions. If they listen to his vile
suggestions, how erroneously will they view themselves, and God's dealings
with the wicked. Aware of the malice and the power of this tempter, let us
pray more and more for the enlightening power of the Holy Spirit, and
deliverance from the tempter's arts. Without God's light we stumble in dark
15. "If I say, I will speak thus; behold, I should
offend against the generation of Your children."
The faculties of observation and deduction correct
erroneous impressions of God's dealings. The Psalmist feels this, and pauses
in his wrong conclusions. He feels that to give utterance to such thoughts
would be to impinge against all which God's children in their experience had
16-17. "When I thought to know this, it was too
painful for me. Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I understood
But still he found that providential orderings were a
mystery with which unaided reason could not grapple. Reason had no torch to
illumine the dark passage, but full knowledge was provided. Let God's people
study His ordinances and His revealed Word. In them all knowledge is plainly
written. Those who are deeply versed in the declarations of the great
Book are the wisest among the children of men. In Christ are hidden all
the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. To know Him is to know all things.
Thus the Psalmist learned the true end of all this seeming prosperity. The
path might be strewn with flowers and charms of beauty, but fearful indeed
was the abyss to which it led.
18-20. "Surely You set them in slippery places; You
cast them down into destruction. How are they brought into desolation, as in
a moment! they are utterly consumed with terrors. As a dream when one
awakes; so, O Lord, when You awake, You shall despise their image."
Their path seemed free from peril, and obviously to lead
to joy and gladness. But the ground was slippery—there was no sure safety
for the feet. We read, "Their feet shall slide in due time." Then what prop
will sustain them—what arm will hold them up? No deliverance is near.
Downward, downward they descend, like rolling stones from mountain-heights,
until they plunge into destruction's gulf.
No time is granted to amend their ways. Terror utterly
consumes them; and their sad beginning reaches an inevitable end. The state
of the ungodly is at best but a vain dream. So when God comes forth in just
displeasure, He shakes them from their vain imaginations, and shows how
contemptible were the images of their sleeping hours.
21-22. "Thus my heart was grieved, and I was pricked
in my spirit. So foolish was I, and ignorant I was as a beast before You."
The Psalmist, fully alive to the folly of his erroneous
conclusions, feels bitter grief. We should indeed be pained when we indulge
in thoughts not enlightened by the Word. We should open our eyes widely to
our folly, and grant that the very brute creation teach us higher wisdom.
23-24. "Nevertheless I am continually with You; You
have held me by my right hand. You shall guide me with Your counsel, and
afterward receive me to glory."
But comfort is not gone. Such folly has not drawn down
the chastisement of desertion. The believer still adheres to God, and it is
his joy to find that God's right hand is extended to hold him up. He is
gladdened by the sweet assurance that grace would be his constant guide;
that he would hear the voice, "This is the way," when he would turn to the
right hand or to the left; and he knew that when the perils of the way were
passed, he would have abundant entrance into the kingdom of heaven. His
guide on earth would give him welcome at heaven's gate.
25. "Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is none
upon earth that I desire beside You!"
The believer has Jesus for his portion. Can heaven give
him more? He rejoices in his superabundant possessions, and counts all
things but loss for this inheritance. He who has Christ indeed has all
things. He desires no more; for nothing could enlarge his treasure.
26-27. "My flesh and my heart fails; but God is the
strength of my heart, and my portion forever. For lo, those who are far from
You shall perish; You have destroyed all those who go a whoring from You."
Flesh and heart fail in hours of strong temptation; flesh
and heart often fail when death draws near. But the failure is not real.
God's strength upholds; and eternal bliss is the sure issue. But then the
ungodly lie down in woe.
28. "But it is good for me to draw near to God; I have
put my trust in the Lord God, that I may declare all Your works."
It is the highest wisdom to draw near to God. The promise
is sure, "Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you." Let us put all
our trust in our Heavenly Father's love, and devote all our time and our
powers to show forth the wonders of His gracious works!