Psalm 50:16–23; Job 21; 1 Corinthians 2:3–16

Originally published 4/17/2015. Revised and updated 4/17/2019

Psalm 50:16–23: God now turns his attention to the wicked, citing a long list of their offenses. At the top of the list is the hypocrisy of a false faith:
Why do you recount My statutes
and bear My pact in your mouth,
when you have despised chastisement
and flung My words behind you? (16-17)

In today’s culture, where the ascendant movement of “progressivism” attempts to sweep faith out of the public square, hypocrisy seems less of the issue it once was. People no longer pretend to have faith; they simply reject it —and consider those who have faith to be “intolerant.”

But then God goes on to cite other sins. Our psalmist seems to be anticipating the problem of gangs:
If you see a thief, you run with him,
and with adulterers is your liot. (18)

And as usual, there’s the problem of wicked speech:
You let loose your mouth in evil,
and your tongue clings fast to deceit. (19)

Now we’re talking (so to speak!) about a sin that is rampant both inside and outside the church—and made all the worse by “social” media where one can denigrate others without having to actually face them. At least vocal speech usually requires the courage to say wicked things to another person’s face. Our psalmist touches on family warfare, as well:
You sit, against your brother you speak,
Your mother’s son you slander. (20)

But above all others—and really the root of most other sins , I think, is the sin of pride. Pride is where we forget or reject God, or even if we believe, we view ourselves as being equal with or even greater than God. Of course, pride is easy when we have rejected God altogether. But as the psalmist observes, our ultimate comeuppance will not a pretty sight.
Understand this, you who forget God,
lest I tear you apart, with no one to save you. (22).

Only those who are faithful will find salvation. Those are the ones to whom “I will show God’s rescue.” (23)

The message seems clear: those individuals who reject God and the larger culture that rejects God will all come to a bad end. To me, it seems our decadent American culture is well on the way.

Job 21: Job, on the other hand, is far less confident than the psalmist that the wicked will inevitably receive just desserts for their wickedness. This is the beauty of this book being in the Bible: one of its major purposes is to fly in the face of conventional wisdom—and, frankly, of conventional theology.

Job compares his present state with that of the wicked:
Look at me, and be appalled,
and lay your hand upon your mouth. (5)

He asks the question we have each asked at some point in our lives:
Why do the wicked live on,
 reach old age,
and grow mighty in power? (7)

Which, to be blunt, certainly seems a more accurate description of the state of the world. For Job, the wicked never receive what they’re due. Instead, he states with bitter sarcasm,
They sing to the tambourine and the lyre,
    and rejoice to the sound of the pipe.
They spend their days in prosperity,
    and in peace they go down to Sheol. (12, 13)

Unlike the psalmist above, the prosperous wicked reject God outright and get away with it:
They say to God, ‘Leave us alone! 
  We do not desire to know your ways. (14)

Job points out that his interlocutors have asserted that the children of the wicked will suffer, but he rejects this theology outright:
You say, ‘God stores up their iniquity for their children.’
    Let it be paid back to them, so that they may know it.
Let their own eyes see their destruction,
    and let them drink of the wrath of the Almighty. (19, 20)

Which I think is a really good point!  Job understands evil and suffering in ways his friends (and our psalmist above) can never understand. Yes, the wicked don’t necessarily get what they deserve. Rather, there is rampant injustice in the world.

In fact, Job continues, there is plenty of public evidence that the assumptions of his friends are completely false—they simply remain in denial of the brutal reality all around them:
Have you not asked those who travel the roads,
    and do you not accept their testimony,
that the wicked are spared in the day of calamity,
    and are rescued in the day of wrath? (29, 30)

In the end, Job recognizes his friends speeches for what they are:
How then will you comfort me with empty nothings?
 There is nothing left of your answers but falsehood. (34)

This is a definite warning to those who pretend to know what their friends are feeling or experiencing. I know from my own experience with cancer that some people came to me, assuming they knew how I felt, but made it all about themselves, thinking they were comforting me with “empty nothings.”

 1 Corinthians 2:3–16: Paul shifts from the shortcomings of human wisdom to the grandeur of God’s wisdom: “But we speak God’s wisdom, secret and hidden, which God decreed before the ages for our glory.” (7). Unlike men who flaunt their “wisdom,” only to have it revealed as shallow and ephemeral, God’s wisdom is far deeper. It is mysterious, and unlike the Gnostics of the age that would claim to be able to eventually uncover that wisdom themselves, God’s wisdom is forever hidden from human sight. As much as we try—and I’ve tried a lot—there’s no way to unlock the core mystery of our faith. And rather than that reality being a source of frustration, it can become a source of joy.

There is absolutely no way that any human could ever have conceived of God’s plan of Jesus’ incarnation, sacrificial death, and Resurrection. It is truly “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,/nor the human heart conceived.” (9)

We may not come to understand the mystery, but God has given us something far superior to mere human understanding: the gift of the Holy Spirit—the means by which we come to understand as Paul puts it later in this book, “through a glass darkly.” I like how Paul phrases it here: “we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God.” (12) What’s clear in this statement is that there is no room in our hearts for human wisdom and the Holy Spirit to dwell simultaneously. The Holy Spirit completely displaces the “spirit of the world.” And if we attempt to hang on to the spirit of the world, we are not opening ourselves up to the Holy Spirit residing in us. And without the Holy Spirit we will indeed never have “the mind of Christ.”

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