1 Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may run swiftly and be glorified, just as it is with you, 2 and that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men; for not all have faith. (2 Thessalonians 3:1–2, NKJV)
The effectiveness of prayer was not an afterthought to Christians of the New Testament age (Jas. 5:16). The apostle Paul often asked brethren to pray for him, and he repeatedly prayed for his fellow Christians (1 Thess. 3:10; Eph. 6:18-19; Phil. 1:9; Col. 1:3, 9; 4:3). In today’s passage, Paul asked for specific prayers, something we ought to do, too. First, he asked for prayers that God’s word would triumph in its purposes (saving the lost and strengthening the saved, v. 1). The gospel was achieving these purposes in their lives (1 Thess. 1:2-9; 2 Thess. 1:3-4). We are confident they joined Paul in praying the gospel would win the race and be honored as other souls believed and obeyed Jesus (Rom. 1:16-17). Second, Paul asked them to pray for mutual deliverance from faithless, unreasonable, and wicked people (v. 2). Like the currents of a flowing river, forces of evil try to sweep us away and drown us in error and sin’s corruption. The Lord is active and faithful to rescue us and guard us against the evil one and his cohorts as we do what His apostles command (2 Thess. 3:3-4). May we offer such prayers daily.
17 Lord, You have heard the desire of the humble; You will prepare their heart; You will cause Your ear to hear, 18 To do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, that the man of the earth may oppress no more. (Psalm 10:17–18, NKJV)
Psalms 10 wrestles with the apparent immunity of the wicked from accountability and justice from the judgment seat of God (cf. Hab. 1:1-4). “Why do you stand afar off, O Lord? Why do You hide in times of trouble?” (Psa. 10:1) The proud boast in their greed and renounce the Lord; They could care less about God (10:3-4). The oppressors always appear to prosper as they arrogantly devise evil against the poor (10:5-10). They do not believe God sees their transgressions, nor will He “require an account” (10:11, 13). In weariness of heart, the oppressed cry out for God to see their evil and lift His hand of judgment against them (10:12). God does see the sins of the godless. He is the helper of the fatherless, and the helpless commit themselves to Him and the justice He will bring upon the wicked (10:14-15). His sovereignty secures our confidence that God will right every wrong; He is “King forever and ever” (10:16; 2 Thess. 1:6-10). What began as the psalmist’s perplexity when the wicked appear to escape justice ends in a flourish of praise and adoration of the Lord. Nothing escapes His notice. In His time, God executes justice for the righteous cause of the humble, the powerless, and the oppressed, who prepare their hearts to accept His righteous judgments (Psa. 19:9; 2 Pet. 3:7-10).
“When the wicked arise, men hide themselves; But when they perish, the righteous increase.” (Proverbs 28:28, NKJV)
We are living through a moment of social upheaval in America. To say there is only one cause would be simplistic. Scripture says, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach of any people” (Prov. 14:34). We have witnessed wickedness and righteousness by people with authority and by people who live under it. Godly people pray for peace and pursue conduct that makes for peace (1 Tim. 2:1-2; Heb. 12:14). Evil increases when civil authority does not live up to its God-given work to punish evildoers and protect the innocent (Rom. 13:1-7). Sin draws a crowd of likeminded people. The righteous diminish when sin has free rein in communities and nations. Solomon observed the opposite is also true (see Prov. 28:12). The decision we must make is not to wring our hands and fret over evildoers – they will soon be removed (Psa. 37:1-2, 9-10). What we must do is “trust the Lord, and do good,” “commit your way to the Lord,” and “rest in the Lord” (Psa. 37:3, 5, 7). “Do not be overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:21).
32 The wicked watches the righteous, and seeks to slay him. 33 The Lord will not leave him in his hand, nor condemn him when he is judged. (Psalm 37:32–33, NKJV)
Someone is watching you – someone who does not have your best interests at heart. So it is that the wicked scrutinize the righteous, looking for any chink in the armor, anything they can twist to slay (actually or figuratively) the upright in heart. It was so with Jesus. The scribes and Pharisees relentlessly assailed Him, cross-examining Him, “lying in wait for Him, and seeking to catch Him in something He might say, that they might accuse Him” (Lk. 11:54). When the wicked condemn the righteous, the Lord assures His abiding presence and approval despite the judgment of the wicked. What are the righteous to do when judged and condemned by the wicked? Do not give reviling for reviling, but speak wisdom and justice (Psa. 37:30). Keep God’s law in your heart, so you do not slip from following God’s path (Psa. 37:31). Patiently endure the evil and keep trusting the Lord. He will bless you and bring His judgment against the wicked (Psa. 37:34). Although transgressors may prosper temporarily, they will come to ruin, so, do not envy them (Psa. 37:1-2). It is the blameless who receive peace from the Lord (Psa. 37:35-40).
15 “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.” 16 But to the wicked God says: “What right have you to declare My statutes, or take My covenant in your mouth, 17 Seeing you hate instruction and cast My words behind you?” (Psalm 50:15–17, NKJV)
The wicked, who defy God’s law and break His covenant, have no ground to stand upon and declare what God will or will not do. God is not a talisman or lucky charm to be called upon to conjure up blessings in a moment of crisis. Yet, too many people think of God this way. They have little time or use for God until a crisis occurs, and then they can be heard crying to God for help. God is not a fire-extinguisher on standby only when we have a problem that needs fixing. He commands and deserves our gratitude and faithful allegiance always. The Lord God hears and answers the cries of the righteous (1 Peter 3:10-12). Are you responsive to what God wants from you (His words of instruction)? If not, how can you expect Him to respond to your cries for help? What right do you have to say what God will or will not do, seeing you have rejected His word? Come back to God and obey His word. Then, He will hear and answer your prayers according to His will, not yours (1 John 5:14-15).
3 Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; Keep watch over the door of my lips. 4 Do not incline my heart to any evil thing, to practice wicked works with men who work iniquity; And do not let me eat of their delicacies. (Psalm 141:3–4, NKJV)
The enticements of evil are prevalent and powerful. Those who practice sin allure the innocent to join them with offerings of personal pleasure and satisfaction. “Their delicacies” are designed to tempt, but leave the soul famished and starved of righteousness. One’s heart must not be willing to accept the temptations to join with evil and practice sin. Like David, petition God to set a guard over your mouth, that you will not utter compliance and agreement with evil. We cannot eat appetizers from the table of sin, without becoming workers of iniquity. Pray tell: how many delicacies off the table of iniquity can one eat (how much sin can one commit) without causing spiritual harm? To ask such a question is to answer it! Therefore, we must always “depart from evil and do good” (Psalm 34:14; 1 Peter 3:10-11). Do not play around with sin. Protect yourself from the delicacies of those who practice sin. You cannot “partake of the Lord’s table and of the table of demons” (1 Corinthians 10:21).
“There is no peace,” says the Lord, “for the wicked.” (Isaiah 48:22, NKJV)
At first glance, it seems counterintuitive that the wicked have no peace. On the surface, it often appears not to be so. But, what appears to be so is not always the truth of the matter. The psalmist began to envy the wicked when he saw their prosperity. It appeared to him that they live and die in abundance, without experiencing life’s pain or suffering (Psalm 73:4-9). It appeared the wicked were at ease, while the righteous struggled to survive (Psalm 73:10-14). But, looks can be deceiving. When he contemplated their end, his eyes opened to see their demise (Psalm 73:15-20). He remembered the Lord was His comfort, strength, and counsel (Psalm 73:25-26). And so, he resolved to continue to put his trust in the Lord God, and declare all His great works (Psalm 73:28). He rightly judged that “those who are far from You shall perish; You have destroyed all those who desert you for harlotry” (Psalm 73:27). Truly, there is no peace for the wicked. Living in the selfishness of sin leads to eternal agony. Come to Jesus, and have rest for your soul (Matt. 11:29).
19 Do not fret because of evildoers, nor be envious of the wicked; 20 For there will be no prospect for the evil man; The lamp of the wicked will be put out.” (Proverbs 24:19–20, NKJV)
We are tempted to fret (to become agitated, lit., “to burn”) and be envious of the wicked. Why does it seem the wicked prosper while the righteous do not? We need to step back for a moment when we begin to grieve or are moved to provocation by sinners. A compelling reason is given to prevent fretting over and being envious of the wicked person: His future is bleak. There is nothing ahead for him except corruption (Gal. 6:8). He is laying up for himself treasures on earth. But, he will soon die, and he will take nothing with him beyond the grave. His life and its evil will be extinguished. The outcome of his sinful conduct will surely be divine wrath and eternal death (Rom. 2:5; 6:23). Fretting over the evil actions and apparent advantages of the wicked distracts us from our call to live by faith, not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7). So, instead of fretting when we see the temporary advantages of the wicked, let us strengthen our faith in Christ and renew our resolve to help save the lost from the utter despair awaiting them. They possess nothing to merit your envy. Do not burn in your spirit because of them. The time for honoring themselves will soon end. Then, their eternal regret begins.
15 Do not lie in wait, O wicked man, against the dwelling of the righteous; Do not plunder his resting place; 16 For a righteous man may fall seven times and rise again, but the wicked shall fall by calamity.” (Proverbs 24:15–16, NKJV)
When a righteous person falls into sin or calamity, the wicked person is tempted to take advantage of the situation; to enrich himself at the expense of the fallen. Yet, the righteous will not remain overwhelmed by the moment of transgression or trial; the righteous rise in confessional repentance to “press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (1 Jno. 1:9-2:1; Phil. 3:14). Therefore, do not seize upon the trials of another as if it is your advantage. It is certain that such wickedness will not stand (v. 16). But, the Lord renews the righteous because they trust Him. If you should find yourself overwhelmed by sin or by a burdensome trial, do not lose heart. The Lord forgives sin and strengthens His people to endure present sufferings. Thank God today for His compassion and for the guidance of His word, which renews our faith and strengthens us to move onward to the dawn of eternity.
7 “He who corrects a scoffer gets shame for himself, And he who rebukes a wicked man only harms himself. 8 Do not correct a scoffer, lest he hate you; Rebuke a wise man, and he will love you. 9 Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; Teach a just man, and he will increase in learning.” (Proverbs 9:7–9, NKJV)
These words of wisdom sound much like Jesus’ warning not to cast pearls before swine to avoid being torn to pieces by their madness (Matt. 7:6). The scoffer holds God’s word in contempt, mocking its truth and ridiculing its righteousness. Such a hardened heart fully rejects the rebuke of Scripture and hates you for trying to bring him to his senses. Conversely, how joyful it is when the wise person accepts rebuke. He loves you for the rebuke and grows wiser from it. Which person do you choose to be? Are you the wise person who loves those who rebuke you with God’s truth because they seek your salvation? Or, do you hate those who try to correct you by rejecting God’s rebuke and blaming the messenger (because you hate the message)? Do not be that person. Be wise and accept God’s correction of sin. Love those who are willing to rebuke you in your sin. They are the ones who truly love you.