What to do when the wicked rejoice

Text Psalm 94:12-23 Time 27 08 08 Place Childs Hill Baptist ChurchI'd like us to look this evening at the first part of Psalm 94, verses 1-11. In verse 3, the psalmist asks How long will the wicked, O LORD, how long will the wicked be jubilant? He was writing at a time when the wicked were jubilant, exultant, triumphal. They were full of themselves. We live, I think it is fair to say, in similar times. That how long suggests that things had been like that for some time. Again it is the same for us.
Sinners exist in all ages but there are times when their deeds are done largely in secret, behind closed doors, hidden from view. There is a furtiveness, a secretiveness with regard to many sins. Hypocrisy flourishes at such times. At other times sinners are brazen. Little attempt is made to excuse sin or to cover it up. Sin flaunts itself in provocative ways, parading itself. Hypocrisy is less common. We live, by and large in a day like that, a day when the wicked are jubilant in their wickedness, when hypocrisy is almost the only sin left.
So how should we react in times like these? First, let's consider the description of the wicked in 4-7 and then consider what we ought to do in the light of this.

1. Consider the jubilation of the wickedThe characteristics of the wicked really come out in 4-7. there are four main things to notice.
1. They are proud
4 They pour out arrogant words; all the evildoers are full of boasting. This is their main characteristic. In 2 the writer refers to them as the proud (Rise up, O Judge of the earth; pay back to the proud what they deserve). Pride is found in every human being, of course, even the godly to some extent. With the wicked, however, it is something very obvious. The wicked are proud, arrogant, self-confident, haughty, full of their own self-importance. Again and again the wicked boast and parade their sin. We see it today in things like 'Gay pride' marches – people marching through cities simply boasting about their homosexuality. Or take some of the arrogant words of Richard Dawkins, eg “What has 'theology' ever said that is of the smallest use to anybody? When has 'theology' ever said anything that is demonstrably true and is not obvious? What makes you think that 'theology' is a subject at all?”
2. They are anti-Christian
5 They crush your people, O LORD; they oppress your inheritance. God's people know very little physical persecution in this country at present yet on many other levels the persecution is intense. In the media the Christian viewpoint is rarely expressed. It is often caricatured or is spoken of as just one option among many. In the world of education, from nursery to university the system is dominated by humanistic, anti-Christian views. Believers are often marginalised, held back or downtrodden. Or listen to Dawkins, this time on on faith “Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence.”
Or what about the Nobel prize winner Gore Vidal
The great unmentionable evil at the centre of our culture is monotheism. From a barbaric Bronze Age text known as the Old Testament, three anti-human religions have evolved: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. These are sky-god religions. They are, literally, patriarchal - God is the Omnipotent Father -hence the loathing of women for 2,000 years in those countries afflicted by the sky-god and his earthly male delegates. The sky-god is a jealous god, of course. He requires total obedience from everyone on earth, as he is not just in place for one tribe, but for all creation. Those who would reject him must be converted or killed for their own good.
3. They are oppressive toward the weak
6 They slay the widow and the alien; they murder the fatherless. In light of all this it is no surprise to see that we live in a society where the weak and the needy are neglected and oppressed. The obvious targets today are the unborn; children who are abused sexually and physically. Think of the pressures on marriage and on family life. Then there are the sick and the elderly, the alien and the outcast too. The Nobel scientist Francis Crick has said, chillingly, "No newborn infant should be declared human until it has passed certain tests regarding its genetic endowment and that if it fails these tests, it forfeits the right to live."
4. They are godless
7 They say, "The LORD does not see; the God of Jacob pays no heed." Inevitably such an outlook hardens the heart and sears the conscience and so people make statements like this. The thought of God becomes unbearable. Some say such things openly, some in secret or only to themselves. “What escapes the scoffer is the damning display he makes of himself when he fancies he can do as he likes”. This is part of the reason for why God stays silent. It is not just an aspect of his mercy. Part of his purpose is to show man's true state by nature.

2. Consider what we ought to be doing at such timesSo much for the situation. But what are we to do about it? Two things come out here.
1. At such times, we must pray
This whole psalm is a prayer, of course. It begins as an earnest heartfelt prayer (1-3) O LORD, the God who avenges, O God who avenges, shine forth. Rise up, O Judge of the earth; pay back to the proud what they deserve. How long will the wicked, O LORD, how long will the wicked be jubilant? This is how we should be praying too in our day. Let's think briefly of
1. Who we pray to
It is the LORD, of course, the covenant God of his people, the one who has bound himself to them. Here especially he is the God who avenges, the Judge of the earth. See Romans 12:17 Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: It is mine to avenge; I will repay, says the Lord.2. What we ask
Shine forth (show yourself). Rise up – act. Pay back to the proud what they deserve. Once God looks, once he acts there is no hope for the wicked.
3. The great question posed here
How long will the wicked, O LORD, how long will the wicked be jubilant? Derek Kidner has written “Nothing has changed the sin or corrupted the judge; it is simply the night is long”. How long will the wicked be proud, the weak oppressed and so on? Only God knows how long.
2. At such times we must also do what we can to reason with people
There is something else we can do. There is a horizontal as well as a vertical aspect. We must also reason with people. Look at how he speaks in 8-11 Take heed, you senseless ones among the people; you fools, when will you become wise? Does he who implanted the ear not hear? Does he who formed the eye not see? Does he who disciplines nations not punish? Does he who teaches man lack knowledge? The LORD knows the thoughts of man; he knows that they are futile.They are senseless brutes, fools but we must go to them somehow and we must reason with them and argue the case. They are proud and boastful but we must confront them.
1 Does he who implanted the ear not hear?
Picture it. Our ears – what amazing instruments. They are incredibly sensitive yet so robust. Have they evolved? Impossible! Look at it logically.
2 Does he who formed the eye not see?
Picture it. Our eyes – again amazing instruments. Can they have evolved? Impossible! Again, look at it logically.
3 Does he who disciplines nations not punish?
This is less expected but consider the various disasters that come on this world. Consider the rise and fall of nations. Who brings it all about? God. Watch out unbeliever!
4 Does he who teaches man lack knowledge?
The writer trails off. Need I say more? God reveals truth to men. He is the Great Teacher (as we see supremely in the Lord Jesus Christ). How can it seriously be suggested (as it was earlier) that he does not know? Impossible!
5 The LORD knows the thoughts of man; he knows that they are futile.
This is the final argument. The Lord knows exactly what everyone is thinking. Further, he knows that their thoughts are futile, empty, pointless. Andrew Fuller somewhere lists some examples of futile thinking - seeking satisfaction where there is none; vain regrets; worrying; false comparisons (not God and his law); laying plans that will never happen.
Futile thinking goes on all around us. We must convince people of this and do what we can to turn them from rebellion to God.
Praying and putting arguments before people is not easy but we must do this and not give into the temptation to stop because we feel prayer will make no difference or we are afraid to speak out.