Scriptures

Psalm 73

Introduction

This psalm asks the age old question, why do the wicked prosper, while the righteous suffer? The answer to the question is that God has created an environment in which free-moral individuals can interact and prosper according to their own abilities.

Sadly, this also means that people can become very selfish and take advantage of those who are trying live their lives to please God.

Although there is no heading for this psalm, the first verse of the KJV tells us that it was written by Asaph. Asaph was the singer and musician during the reign of David and Solomon, 1 Chronicles 15:17-19 / 1 Chronicles 16:5-7 / 1 Chronicles 25:6. 1 Chronicles 25:1 and 2 Chronicles 29:30 tells us that Asaph was a prophet in his musical compositions.

‘Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart. But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.’ Psalm 73:1-3

Asaph begins by telling us that God has been good to the nation of Israel, Psalm 51:10, God has always demonstrated His goodness to Israel, especially to those who were pure in heart.

Despite knowing that God has been good to Israel, Asaph says because God is so good, it almost made him slip, he almost lost his foothold.

The reason he almost slipped was because he considered certain individuals in society, and wondered why the wicked prospered, while he was oppressed and in poverty, Romans 8:28. In other words, he thought that this was unfair, that God was good to those who were arrogant, to those who were wicked, Psalm 14:1 / Ecclesiastes 7:16.

‘They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. They are free from common human burdens; they are not plagued by human ills. Therefore pride is their necklace; they clothe themselves with violence. From their callous hearts comes iniquity; their evil imaginations have no limits. They scoff and speak with malice; with arrogance they threaten oppression. Their mouths lay claim to heaven, and their tongues take possession of the earth. Therefore their people turn to them and drink up waters in abundance. They say, “How would God know? Does the Most High know anything?” This is what the wicked are like—always free of care, they go on amassing wealth.’ Psalm 73:4-12

As far as Asaph is concerned, he thinks that the wicked have no struggles, Isaiah 58:6, they are health and strong, Job 21:23-26, they don’t have any burdens and they never get ill.

In other words, he felt that the wicked were rewarded equally with the righteous. In fact, he felt that in some ways, the wicked were more blessed, that those who were pure in heart.

Because the wicked wear pride as a necklace, that is, they were arrogantly proud. The more proud they get, the more wicked they became, Isaiah 3:16. They became more violent, callous and evil, Psalm 17:10, they became scoffers, who spoke with malice, they arrogantly think they are better than others and use language to bring others down.

The wicked use their ‘mouths to lay claim to heaven’, that is, they speak as if they were in heaven itself, Revelation 13:6. They use their tongues as though they ‘possessed the earth’, that is, as if they had some kind authority.

The wicked have others who are just like them, and they ‘drink up waters in abundance’, that is, they just keep taking and taking and taking, Psalm 75:8 / Isaiah 51:17.

In their arrogance, they ask ‘how would God know? Does God know anything?’ In other words, the wicked claim that God doesn’t see anything, it’s as though God was blind. They believed that they could do whatever they like because God isn’t able to do anything against them.

It’s clear that Asaph is extremely frustrated with what is happening concerning the wicked. He feels that a wicked way of life was possibly a good life, after all, they appear to be getting rewarded by God because their wealth just keeps on growing. Asaph feels that the wicked are actually being rewarded by a God who knows nothing.

The words of these verses portray the nature and life of the wicked who prosper. They are well fed, having a life without trouble, they go unchecked with their oppressive conduct and unscrupulous dealings.

They have more than one could desire, they speak with arrogance and because they’re arrogant in their speech, people often turn to them for leadership and counsel. They continue to prosper, regardless of their unrighteous behavior.

‘Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure and have washed my hands in innocence. All day long I have been afflicted, and every morning brings new punishments. If I had spoken out like that, I would have betrayed your children. When I tried to understand all this, it troubled me deeply till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny. Surely you place them on slippery ground; you cast them down to ruin. How suddenly are they destroyed, completely swept away by terrors! They are like a dream when one awakes; when you arise, Lord, you will despise them as fantasies.’ Psalm 73:13-20

We can almost feel the frustration in Asaph’s words. He felt that it was a waste of time keeping a pure heart, he felt that it was a waste of time being clean before God, that is, being innocent before God, Psalm 26:6.

He felt that his life was harder than the wicked because he had to go through afflictions and punishment every morning, Job 7:18. He could have told God’s people how he was feeling, but he didn’t want them to get confused with what seems unfair.

He didn’t want them to experience everything he was going through, he didn’t want them to feel the way he was feeling.

Although he tried to understand why the wicked were prospering and getting away with their evil ways, he couldn’t get his head around it. it troubled him deeply until he entered God’s sanctuary and it was there he come to understand what will eventually happen to the wicked, Job 15:20-21.

It appears that a visit to God’s sanctuary has actually put things into perspective for Asaph. Notice that Asaph said earlier that he felt his feet were on slippery ground, Psalm 73:2, but know he knows that it’s actually the wicked’s feet who are on slippery ground.

He begun by thinking that the wicked had a better way of life because they appeared to be blessed more than he was, but now he knows they are destined for ruin, they will be destroyed and swept away in terrors, Luke 16:19-31.

Asaph now understands that the way the wicked live is actually like a dream, it’s as if Asaph himself as woken up to the realities of the wicked way of life. He knows when God arises, that is, awakes, God will deal with the wicked.

‘When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you. Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Those who are far from you will perish; you destroy all who are unfaithful to you. But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign LORD my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds.’ Psalm 73:21-28

Asaph now goes on to confess his sins to God, because he had lost sight of God’s justice and the wicked’s destiny, he acknowledges he was grieved, embittered, senseless and ignorant, Psalm 7:9.

He says he was a brute beast before God, Psalm 51:4 / Isaiah 1:7 / Jeremiah 7:30 / Jeremiah 18:10, that is, he acknowledges that he didn’t think of eternity, he only thought of the here and now.

After confessing his sins to God, he now acknowledges that He is with God and God is with him. He also says that God will guide him in his life and afterwards, God will take him into glory. In other words, while the wicked come to destruction, Psalm 73:17-19, he will come to glory, 2 Corinthians 4:17-18.

Asaph is now in a better place, mentally and spiritually, he knows where God is, and he knows that he has no one like Him in heaven. His hope is in God, and he knows that the earth has nothing in it which can give him the hope he desires.

He knows his own human weaknesses, therefore, he relies on the strength of God, Psalm 18:2 / Psalm 61:2, and God will be his portion forever, Numbers 18:20.

Asaph now fully understands and accepts that those who are far from God, those who are unfaithful to God, will perish, they will be destroyed, 2 Thessalonians 1:6-9. He also understands that he’s better off being near to God, James 4:4, who is his refuge.

He now wants to proclaim to everyone that God can be trusted, he wants to tell everyone about God’s goodness and what he has learned from his visit to God’s sanctuary.

Conclusion

We can’t help but be impressed with the mental and spiritual journey Asaph makes in this psalm. What a difference a visit to God’s sanctuary made to him, where he comes to understand life more clearly and allows God to put things into perspective.

Job asked God this very same question, why do the wicked prosper? Job 21:7-9. Jeremiah asked the very same question in Jeremiah 12:1.

Maybe Asaph, we need to go to God and allow Him to put things into perspective for us. Instead of focusing what others have got, maybe we should focus on what we have, Ephesians 1:3, and Who we’ve got in our lives, that is, God.

We often take our eyes of God and look at what’s happening around us, Matthew 14:30, but God asks us to seek him with everything we’ve got, Jeremiah 29:13.

When we read and study His word, He will help us put things into perspective, Matthew 6:33 / Romans 8:28.

Go To Psalm 74

DAILY BIBLE VERSE

"And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

Philippians 4:7

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