Jeremiah 43-44; Psalms 71 and 116
The people heard Jeremiah’s message from God – and they rejected it! They called the prophet a liar, and promised to go on living just the way they were living. In fact, they said that when they worshiped idols in the past, they’d had “plenty of food and were well off and suffered no harm.” They went so far as to say that trouble started only when they’d stopped worshiping their pretend gods.
What they chose to forget were the many times God had sent prophets to warn them, sent plagues or famine to get their attention. Their memory was selective, “We had it good without God.”
We all know there are people who have rejected God as blatantly as these ancient Jews rejected Him. And we are witness to the fact that God doesn’t zap them dead the minute they utter the words, “We will not listen to the message you have spoken to us in the name of the Lord.” (Jeremiah 44:17)
Many non-believers, enemies of God, prosper in this world. But don’t think for a moment God or some higher power or the universe is blessing them for their sin. Jeremiah tells us in verses 21-22 that God is not unaware of what they are doing. He tells us God endures their sin for a time.
Why? Why would God sit back and let people be wicked? Well the answer is, He doesn’t. God doesn’t sit back – ever. If wicked people prosper it is because God is patiently throwing out roadblocks, conviction, signs, messages, hardship, unrest, whatever… in order to help those people choose Him. You can’t know how God is working in anyone’s heart.
I’m glad the organizers of the NIV One Year Chronological Bible include the two psalms in today’s scripture. This is the testimony God wants every man, woman, and child to have for themselves: God is gracious, God is good, God is righteous, He protects, He gives hope, and He is worthy of praise. And I believe the Bible tells us God will keep working in the hearts of even the most vile offenders, until they die.
But Jeremiah also tells us there is a time when judgment comes. Just because wicked people seem to prosper, doesn’t mean they are getting away with anything. One day they will have to account for their choices. In Jeremiah’s day that involved disasters, sword and famine. But the ultimate judgment is so much worse. It’s eternal.
So, dear Christian, don’t get caught up wondering why wicked people aren’t suffering. God is working. Trust Him. They aren’t getting away with anything. That fact should cause us to grieve for them, to pray for them, and to allow God to use us to save them.