Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore, let us go forth to him outside the camp, bearing his reproach. For we have no continuing city here, but we seek one to come.
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“As for me, my steps were almost gone; my steps had well nigh slipped.
For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
. . . These are the ungodly who prosper in the world;
they increase in riches.
Verily, I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocency,
for all the day long have I been plagued,
and am chastened every morning.”
Asaph, in Psalm 73:2-3, 12-14
When we think of the reign of King David, we think of deliverance, righteousness and peace. David was a sort of second Moses to Israel. The previous king’s reign had been a tragic disaster. It had left the nation in shambles, spiritually, militarily, and socially. David restored the integrity of the faith to God’s people, and then God restored Israel’s integrity as a nation.
When we think about the time when Moses led Israel out of Egypt and through the wilderness, we think of purity of faith, righteous judgment, and joyful revelation of the true God. Moses boldly led God’s chosen people out of slavery and to the very brink of the Promised Land, as a free and holy nation.
I could go on. There are many men and women in the Old and New Testaments whose names stir up thoughts of miraculous events, righteous acts of faith, and feelings of peace and joy. But in the main, that was not the experience of those men and women themselves.
David’s fellow Israelite, Asaph, was a high-ranking Levitical singer, and a prophet. He composed at least eleven of the Psalms, and he, like David, was used by the Son of God to speak mysteries concerning himself before he came to earth (Ps. 78:1-3 with Mt. 13:34-35). It was Asaph, not David, whom God used to reveal that the tribe of Judah had replaced the tribe of Ephraim as the head of all the tribes (Ps. 78:60-72). But Asaph’s psalms also reveal that sin as well as righteousness was prospering in Israel in David’s time. Asaph saw God bless many wicked Israelites, making them rich and happy; consequently, Asaph was discouraged. God wouldn’t let him get by with anything, and He blessed the wicked in spite of anything they did! According to Asaph, God chastened him every morning!
Of course, Asaph recovered himself. He went to the house of God, and something he experienced there opened his eyes again to the reality of the Final Judgment. He sobered up then and considered the eternal destination of the wicked, and the eternal destination of those who humble themselves to receive the chastening of the Lord. But Asaph’s recovery from foolish envy of the wicked is not my point here. My point is that even in the times when the men of greatest faith, like King David, who ruled in Asaph’s time, there was wickedness in Israel.
God said through the prophet Amos that, in their hearts, Israel was not worshiping Him when they followed Moses in the wilderness, but the god Moloch instead (Amos 5:25-26). And even in the days of the apostles, great wickedness existed in the midst of the newly created body of Christ on earth (e.g., Acts 5:1-11 and 1Cor. 5). We understand that the upright have always been in the minority among the nations of earth, but what is often overlooked is the fact that, most of the time, the upright in heart have been the minority even among those who belong to God.
That knowledge will act as a shield for our faith. It should encourage us to make our fellowship with God very personal and gain strength from Him to persevere in righteousness and faith regardless of how others behave. The “wise virgins” are they who are not discouraged by the unfaithful; they understand that ungodliness is among us, seen or not seen, and it will at times raise its ugly head, even in our own midst. All of God’s faithful children have had to deal with it, and they will continue to deal with it until the final purging of the body of Christ which will take place shortly before the second coming of Jesus (Mt. 13:40-43).