Wickedness and the Satisfying God

Psalm 73 is fascinating. Go read it and then come back to this. The author opens up his heart with pure honesty. He wipes the dew from the window of his soul and places glasses on our eyes so that we can clearly see. Across the landscape we see the earthly fruit of wickedness that leads to the selfish desire of the results of wickedness for oneself. But like seeing for the first time in the morning we rub our eyes and look again to see an answer that Job and Jeremiah, and you and me, long for—satisfaction amidst the wickedness. It’s surprising and wonderful. We stand there with our mouth open as we do before a breathtaking sunrise—in total awe of a God who is in absolute control of every single thing.

It seems as if those who disregard the law of God find green pastures and still waters. They succeed. They look good. They don’t suffer. They aren’t sad. They have good self-esteem. They are at ease, unhurried, rich. But that’s what it looks like from the window, not from the heavens. Horizontally, it looks good, but from a birds-eye, all-seeing view it’s not so attractive. Like seeing the fish from the side of the aquarium, it looks like there is plenty of room to swim. But take a look from the top and you’ll see that space is limited. For the wicked, their time is coming and everything they have will be taken away.

This is the kind of view that we can only see from the window of the biblical authors. It’s the view from the top of the castle, not the ground floor of the marketplace. It’s the view that lifts us up above the hustle and bustle where slights of hand can trick the eyes. It’s the view from the sanctuary of God.

The wicked are on the edge of the universe. They are on a slippery slope. But they don’t know it. They think they’re at the center of the universe—secure forever. The only way they could fall is if they allow it. They are autonomous. They have spent their lives building their kingdom. They are the king and there is no opposition. They are living the dream.

Yet a sunrise is coming on their kingdom that they haven’t considered. They’ve set themselves up far from the only true reality in the world. They’ve distanced themselves from the only true satisfaction in the world and exchanged the glory of God for the glory of themselves. Their dream will soon become a nightmare—even worse, a never-ending nightmare of eternal damnation.

There’s something about them, though, isn’t there? We see what they have and we want it. We long to be satisfied in our bodies. We want to matter. We want to be known and loved and admired. And so, like the Psalmist, we are envious of the arrogant when we see their prosperity. And in so doing we become beasts toward the Lord. Thankfully, we have a God who turns beasts into beauties.

Truly God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart (v. 1). His goodness is of a transforming nature. Pureness of heart is single-focused. It’s the heart that can say honestly, “I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked” (v. 3) and “I was brutish and ignorant; I was like a beast toward you” (v. 22). It’s the heart that, because of God’s goodness, looks upon the wicked and finds that they actually, honestly do desire more from their life and they aren’t satisfied with not having it. But it’s the heart that doesn’t settle for the stolen treasures of the wicked and instead goes knocking on the castle of the treasure-making God to seek out that which moth and rust do not destroy and where thieves can’t break in and steal (Matt. 6:19). It’s the heart that when welcomed into the castle clothed in their dirty garments find not a silent overseer but a loving Father. It’s the heart that is invited to see from the rooftops the reality of the kingdom. It’s the heart that finds a home in the dwelling place of God. It’s the heart that, because of the work of Jesus on his behalf, calls out to God, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you” (v. 25). It’s the heart that can say with an all-satisfying smile, “For me it is good to be near God” (v. 28). It’s a transformed heart. It’s a once selfish heart suddenly become other’s-focused, “I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all your works” (v. 28).

And you know what? The desires of that kind of heart are the same. The answer is just from a different source. That kind of heart isn’t a self-made heart like the false kingdom of the wicked. That kind of heart is the God-made, God-given heart that comes when all else fails. It’s the heart that has all the same desires, but now has something to satisfy those desires—secure forever.