When Wicked Men Die
When Wicked Men Die
It was a memorable text for a memorable occasion. My friend was preaching on the Sunday after the overthrow and execution of the Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu in December 1989, and this was the verse on which he based his sermon: “I have seen a wicked and ruthless man flourishing like a green tree in its native soil, but he soon passed away and was no more; though I looked for him, he could not be found” (Psalm 37.35-36). Whoever he was he had had his day and justly now was gone. So too the dictator.
If you read Psalm 37 as a whole (and I strongly encourage you to do so; it’s in the Old Testament section of the Bible) you will see that the destruction of the wicked is a theme that runs from beginning to end. God’s people were fretting because of the terrible power of evil men to do harm. Not surprisingly! But God had something to say to them for the comfort of their hearts and he said it again and again: one day the wicked would be cut off.
I wonder how you view the killing of Osama bin Laden. You look at the months of careful planning and the manner in which the mission was carried out and feel grateful to all involved and thankful for their success. And that is right! But there is more to Bin Laden’s death than American forces finally serving justice on a man who for his crimes had forfeited his life. We are to see the hand of God in it.
Of every wicked deed of which Bin Laden was guilty God had made a careful note. To every prayer for justice he had bent a sympathetic ear. It was only ever a matter of time before he acted. And that time came. That is why Bin Laden’s whereabouts were eventually discovered. That is why his life was brought to an end. That is why our forces were successful. The God of justice was on their side. And that is why it is to God, above all, that heartfelt thanks are due.
Exultation is tempered, of course, by sober realism. The terrorist threat is ongoing. There are many other wicked men who pose a threat. But the message of Psalm 37 is that they too will have their day. God in fact will one day deal with all his enemies and rid the world of them forever.
And therein lies the problem for us. You’re no Bin Laden, you say. And nor am I. But we have all made an enemy of God by our sins. Hence the Bible’s summons to repentance and to faith in Jesus. Heed it! Otherwise your day of reckoning must come too.
Grace Baptist Church
777 W North Street
Carlisle, PA 17013