The title is a question many people down through human history have asked. Yes, I have as well. This was a question Jeremiah the prophet was asking in the text you will read in a moment. Many of the Old Testament prophets asked the question. Habakkuk asked it in his prophecy chapter 1; and Malachi asked it a couple of times 2:17; 3:15.
Sometimes it does seem that the wicked prosper. It really depends on your definition or view of prosperity. Hear the prophet Jeremiah…
Righteous are You, O LORD, when I plead with You; yet let me talk with You about Your judgments. Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why are those happy who deal so treacherously? You have planted them, yes, they have taken root; they grow, yes, they bear fruit. You are near in their mouth but far from their mind. But You, O LORD, know me; You have seen me, and You have tested my heart toward You. Pull them out like sheep for the slaughter, and prepare them for the day of slaughter. How long will the land mourn, and the herbs of every field wither? The beasts and birds are consumed, for the wickedness of those who dwell there, because they said, “He will not see our final end.”
“If you have run with the footmen, and they have wearied you, then how can you contend with horses? And if in the land of peace, in which you trusted, they wearied you, then how will you do in the floodplain of the Jordan? For even your brothers, the house of your father, even they have dealt treacherously with you; yes, they have called a multitude after you. Do not believe them, even though they speak smooth words to you. Jeremiah 12:1-6 (NKJV)
“Why does the way of the wicked prosper?” he asks above. The prophet was preaching to the priesthood, involving his family, his father and brothers, uncles, etc.. They despised what he was saying. They had turned their backs on God, and were prospering even in their hypocrisy, and really their hatred for God and His word.
Think about verse five for a moment… “If you have run with the footmen, and they have wearied you, then how can you contend with horses?” Jeremiah if you are having a hard time dealing with this minor form of trouble; then how are you going to deal with the more troublesome time that lies ahead for you?
We are troubled by many things, but let us look at each life event; and that is what they are; as training for what lies ahead. God knows what is ahead for you and me, just as He did the prophet Jeremiah.
First let us not be like the religious leaders of Judah who were hypocrites, spouting their love for God and the temple, but not loving God Himself;
Second, let us be faithful like Jeremiah; and let us be strong in hearing the word of the LORD; and He will bring us through whatever lies ahead. When we have God with us, leading us, protecting us, they why should we worry about the prosperity of the wicked. When we have the LORD with us; through His Son Jesus; we are prospering.