“And now we call the proud happy; yea, they that work wickedness are set up; yea, they that tempt God are even delivered.” (Malachi 3:15)
Their perverted hearts had led them to perverse conclusions. In this verse, they make three declarations, all of which are directly opposed to biblical truth. First of all, they say that proud people are happy people, but Scripture declares, “The LORD will destroy the house of the proud...(Proverbs 15:25).” Secondly, they say that people who work wickedness are set up, established, or built. However, Scripture declares, “The LORD...casteth away the substance of the wicked (Proverbs 10:3).” Lastly, they declare that the man who tempts or tests God will be delivered, but Scripture says, “Harden not your heart, as in the provocation, and as in the day of temptation in the wilderness: When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my work. Forty years long was I grieved with this generation, and said, It is a people that do err in their heart, and they have not known my ways: Unto whom I sware in my wrath that they should not enter into my rest (Psalm 95:8-11).” The unconverted conclusions of man's black heart are consistently against the unerring truth of Scripture.
Because of their lost state, these people had arrived at such a belief system; however, a Christian is not above being tempted with the belief that God's service is vain, or that the wicked are better off than the righteous. When a believer loses sight of the fear of the LORD, he becomes very susceptible to such reasoning. The human heart is hateful, and desperately against the things of God; therefore, the believer who allows his heart to guide his steps rather than relying upon the Spirit of truth, will soon find himself uttering such perverse thoughts as these. Does this mean that such a man was never saved to begin with? Not necessarily. The believer is still with his old flesh. He is still just a sinner saved by grace. He still needs the daily guidance of godly fear and faith. He is not above serious mistakes. An illustration of this may be seen in Psalm 73. In this Psalm, godly Asaph had wandered from the fear of the Lord and had allowed himself to believe that the wicked were better off than the righteous. Commenting on the disastrous effects of such thinking, he says, “But as for me, my feet were almost gone; my steps had well nigh slipped. For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked (Psalm 73:2-3).” At the end of the Psalm, he declares how God delivered him from such reasoning, “...I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end. Surely thou didst set them in slippery places: thou castedst them down into destruction...But it is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord GOD, that I may declare all thy works (Psalm 73:17-18, 28).” Once Asaph's focus was back on the fear of the Lord, all was well.
When a believer finds himself questioning the worth of God's service and envying the apparent prosperity of the God-hater, let him humble himself immediately and flee to the truth of Scripture! It is never vain to serve the Lord, and just when a man thinks that he has shown great piety toward God with no reward, he may find that he has been living in self-deception.