Reviled Here, Rewarded There

He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. (Psalm 1:3)

How does the promise in Psalm 1:3 point to Christ?

It says, “In all that he does, he prospers.” The righteous prosper in everything they do. Is this naïve or profoundly true?

In this life, it certainly seems that the wicked prosper. “Fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices!” (Psalm 37:7). “Evildoers not only prosper but they put God to the test and they escape” (Malachi 3:15).

And in this life the righteous often suffer and their goodness is rewarded with abuse. “If we had forgotten the name of our God . . . would not God discover this? . . . Yet for your sake we are killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered” (Psalm 44:20–22). The psalmists themselves knew this. We are not protesting something they didn’t already know.

Therefore, when the psalmist says, “In all that he does, he prospers,” he is not naïve. He is pointing through the ambiguities of this life to life after death, where the true effectiveness — the true prosperity — of all that we have done will appear.

This is the way Paul thought.

First, he celebrates the victory of Christ over death. “‘O death, where is your victory?’ . . . Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:55, 57).

Then, he draws out the implication that, because of this triumph, every work that believers have ever done will prosper. “Therefore, my beloved brothers . . . in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58). When something is not in vain, it prospers.

Because Jesus died in our place, he guaranteed that every good deed prospers — sooner or later. “Whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord” (Ephesians 6:8). “Blessed are you when others revile you. . . . Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven” (Matthew 5:11–12). Reviled here. Rewarded there.

What seems naïve in the Old Testament (“in all that he does, he prospers”) points profoundly to the work of Christ and the reality of resurrection. As the words of that great hymn by Katharina von Schlegel, “Be Still My Soul,” says, “Be still, my soul: thy Jesus can repay / From his own fullness all He takes away.”