Till I came to the sanctuaries of God, understood what would be their end. Psalm 73:17 (Robert Alter translation)
End – The amazingly insightful Hebrew word aharit commonly refers to what comes after, later or behind. We have noted Wolff’s description of the “backwards” nature of its temporal connection. We think of the future “ahead” of us. Hebrew thinks of the future “behind” us. It’s worth remembering the man in the rowboat when we try to understanding what Asaph is writing.
What is the “end” (aharit) of the wicked? We would probably answer, “They will end up in hell.” Scripture certainly says that the wicked will be punished. Something bad is going to happen to those who disobey God. But let’s reconsider Asaph’s use of aharit. What if we saw this statement in its Hebraic context? Isn’t Asaph also pointing out that the wicked have their backs to the future? They are blind when it comes to seeing where they are going. So are we all. No man looks into the future. All we can see is the past. Of course, the wicked also see the past, but what they see is not their alignment with God’s purposes but rather their pursuit of their own desires. No matter how successful they have been, the future remains hidden from them. I have often mentioned the newspaper interview with one of Orlando’s richest men who said that he goes to bed every night afraid. Why? Because he is afraid that he might lose it all. He doesn’t know what will happen tomorrow.
But the righteous do know. That’s the principle difference between the wicked and the righteous. The righteous know what is going to happen. God’s purposes will prevail. How those purposes will prevail is inconsequential. That they will prevail is guaranteed. And it is a guarantee that the wicked desperately need but cannot find. The righteous can be content with the circumstances of life, even if those circumstances do not result in prosperity and success because they know that God’s purposes cannot be thwarted. Their obedience guarantees a place in the Kingdom of light. But the wicked cannot be content with today because there is no guarantee that tomorrow all might be lost. Since they don’t participate in the plans of the Kingdom, they have no assurances that anything will last. In fact, if they look to the past, they see only evaporation. The kingdoms of the earth have come and gone. The great men are consigned to memory and eventually are forgotten. Everything fades. Everything decays. There is no safe place for treasure on earth. If history teaches us anything, it teaches us that we do not last. When the world’s most successful really take a serious look, the only conclusion can be hebel, vanity and wind.
We have a choice to make. Live for today or live for tomorrow. The only reason we would choose tomorrow is because we have a guarantee about tomorrow. Otherwise there is no point in a hope in the future. Without the guarantee, it’s all over.
Topical Index: aharit, future, behind, Psalm 73:17