In Psalm 73, verses 3-14, Asaph contemplates the seemingly prosperous state of the wicked, admits that he was envious (v. 3), and laments that “They are not in trouble as other men; neither are they plagued like other men” (v. 5). However, in verses 15-16, Asaph admits being a bit embarrassed at his thoughts, acknowledging that his thoughts, if heard by some, might cause one to stumble. He further notes in verse 16 that the thought of causing one of God’s children to stumble was too painful for him to bear. In verse 17, Asaph states that when he went into God’s sanctuary (i.e., he studied God’s Word, worshiped, meditated on God’s ways), then he understood the end of the wicked. It is hard to conceive of any one of God’s children not having thought along the same lines as Asaph in verses 3-14 at some point or other in his/her life. It is the age old question of, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” and, “Why do the wicked prosper?” But, let us note carefully what the Holy Spirit inspired Asaph to write concerning the end of the wicked in verses 18 and 19 of Psalm 73.
The end of the wicked is startling (v. 18a). Asaph wrote, “Surely thou didst set them in slippery places.” One preacher commented on this statement by comparing it to slipping on a patch of ice. No one intends to fall on a slippery surface. One moment his feet are on firm footing, and the next moment he is helplessly falling to the ground. So it is with the wicked; they may prosper for a time, but their end is coming, and it will be startling indeed. Take heed of Jesus’ words in Luke 12:16-21.
The end of the wicked is statutory (v. 18b). “Thou castedst them down into destruction.” The end of the wicked is statutory, or judicial. In other words, their end is judgment. God, the righteous judge (2 Tim. 4:8), will give their sentence, and it will be just. “I said in mine heart, God shall judge the righteous and the wicked: for there is a time there for every purpose and for every work” (Ecc. 3:17). “Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained” (Acts 17:31). God will judge all men (Heb. 9:27; 2 Cor. 5:10), and His judgment will be fair and sound. No wicked man, at his judicial end, can say, “That just isn’t fair!”
The end of the wicked is sudden (v. 19a). This fact goes right along with the first point (that the end of the wicked is startling). One day, the wicked man is prosperous and doing well, and the next, his end has come (see again, Luke 12:16-21). Job rightly said of the wicked, “They spend their days in wealth, and in a moment go down to the grave” (21:13). The wise man was inspired to write, “The lip of truth shall be established for ever: but a lying tongue is but for a moment” (Pro. 12:19). The wicked may enjoy a lifetime of seeming prosperity, but in a sudden, startling moment, it will all come to a screeching halt if he does not turn from his wicked ways.
The end of the wicked is stinging (v. 19b). Before continuing on in wickedness, those practicing such should know that when the sudden and startling end of the wicked comes in statutory decree from Almighty God, it will be stinging. In other words, it will be tormenting and eternal. Jesus often referred to the punishment of the wicked and disobedient as a place of weeping (or wailing) and gnashing of teeth (Matt. 8:12; 13:42; 13:50; 22:13; 24:51; 25:30). Paul wrote of the second coming of Christ, that He will come “in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power” (2 Ths. 1:8-9). There will be no reprieve, no hope of pardon, for the wicked who turns not from his wicked ways and stands before Jehovah in judgment.
Before being envious of the wicked, let us consider their end. It is difficult not to be envious when people all around us seem so well off in their iniquity. But, like Asaph, we need to meditate on God’s Word, worship Him, and consider the end of the wicked, for their end is startling, it is statutory, it is sudden, and it is unimaginably stinging. May our ponderings on this subject lead us to the same conclusion as Asaph: “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 thy works” (v. 28).
[Article written by Chad Dollahite, taken from Bremen Church of Christ (Bremen, GA) bulletin]