Psalm 73

Psalm 73
Book Three
God Is My Strength and Portion Forever
A Psalm of Asaph.

(1)Truly God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.
(2)But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped.
(3)For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

(4)For they have no pangs until death; their bodies are fat and sleek.
(5)They are not in trouble as others are; they are not stricken like the rest of mankind.
(6)Therefore pride is their necklace; violence covers them as a garment.
(7)Their eyes swell out through fatness; their hearts overflow with follies.
(8)They scoff and speak with malice; loftily they threaten oppression.
(9)They set their mouths against the heavens, and their tongue struts through the earth.
(10)Therefore his people turn back to them, and find no fault in them.
(11)And they say, "How can God know? Is there knowledge in the Most High?"
(12)Behold, these are the wicked; always at ease, they increase in riches.
(13)All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence.
(14)For all the day long I have been stricken and rebuked every morning.
(15)If I had said, "I will speak thus," I would have betrayed the generation of your children.

(16)But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task,
(17)until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end. 

(18)Truly you set them in slippery places; you make them fall to ruin.
(19)How they are destroyed in a moment, swept away utterly by terrors!
(20)Like a dream when one awakes, O Lord, when you rouse yourself, you despise them as phantoms.
(21)When my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in heart, 
(22)I was brutish and ignorant; I was like a beast toward you.

(23)Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand.
(24)You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory.
(25)Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
(26)My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

(27)For behold, those who are far from you shall perish; you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you.
(28)But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, that I may tell of all your works.

Psalm 73 begins Book Three of the Psalter in the Old Testament of the Bible, including Psalms 73-89. Asaph wrote Psalms 73-83; the Sons of Korah, Psalms 84-85, 87-88; Psalm 86 is a prayer of David; and Psalm 89 is signed by Ethan, the Ezarahite. All of these men probably lived during David’s time and led worship in the tabernacle.

For long ago, in the days of David and Asaph, there had been directors for the musicians and for the songs of praise and thanksgiving to God.
Nehemiah 12:46

Psalm 73 is titled: The Tragedy of the Wicked, and the Blessedness of Trust in God (NKJV); God’s Ways Vindicated (HCSB); The End of the Wicked Contrasted with That of the Righteous (NASB2020).

Asaph was one of a number of men from the tribe of Levi that David assigned to run worship in the tabernacle (1 Chronicles 6:31-46).

Hezekiah, the 13th king of Judah and of the House of David, remembers David and Asaph as skilled poets and singers of Israel, and Asaph as a “seer” or prophet.

King Hezekiah and his officials ordered the Levites to praise the LORD with the words of David and of Asaph the seer. So they sang praises with gladness and bowed down and worshipped.
2 Chronicles 29:30

Asaph, among others, was tasked with being the Music Director of the church. Only those men of the tribe of Levi could serve in the house of God as priests or worship leaders or other maintenance jobs in the church. Asaph was a poet, maybe he had a beautiful singing voice, but he had a gift from God in regards to song and music. And these psalms attest to his love for the Lord.

Truly God is good to Israel, to those whose hearts are pure.
Psalm 73:1 NLT

The psalmist declares his confidence in God, and, as it were, plants his foot on a rock while he recounts his inner conflict.

Charles Spurgeon, English preacher, 1834-1892

Asaph, the singer/seer, opens Psalm 73 with a declaration of commitment to the Lord. His psalm will turn to struggle soon enough, but he would begin his song in praise of the One who is faithful.

But as for me, I almost lost my foot. My feet slipping, and I was almost gone. For I envied the proud when I saw them prosper despite their wickedness. They seem to live such painless lives; their bodies are so healthy and strong. They don't have trouble like other people; they're not plagued with problems like everyone else. They wear pride like a jeweled necklace and clothe themselves with cruelty. These fat cats have everything their hearts could ever wish for! They scoff and speak only evil; in their pride they seek to crush others. They boast against the very heavens, and their words strut throughout the earth.
Psalm 73:2-9 NLT

God does not give favor to the wicked. We know this is true. But sometimes life feels unfair, right? Like maybe those who don’t follow God have more fun, more stuff, an easier life on earth. Of course God cares about our lives here, but His focus is so much bigger than any of us can ever understand. He sees us now, on earth, and He see us into eternity with Him.

Together with Asaph, we picture these rich, famous, proud, showy, violent, greedy, foul-speaking gangsters strutting about enjoying their wickedness. We are as troubled by their prosperity and the seeming indifference of God toward them as Asaph was.

David Guzik, pastor, http://www.enduringword.com

Of course, these “foul-speaking gangsters” do not have it all together. Life isn’t easy for anyone. Why is it that we see the grass is greener on the other side? The “woe is me” life is hard as a believer, the God-asks-too-much-of-me attitude. Does it seem that non-believers have more good stuff? More fame and fortune? More of the good things in life? Does it seem like they get sick less often? Do they suffer less?

God doesn’t promise ease and prosperity in this life; nor does He promise good health and a pain free life. Sin destroyed what was meant to be all of those things in the Garden of Eden. When God walked this earth in the Garden, none of those things existed. And so it will be again some day. We, as believers, hold fast to this promise.

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.
John 16:33 ESV

“They set their mouths against heaven, and their tongues strut across the earth” (verse 9, HCSB). What a vivid picture! It seems these people have blasphemed the Lord and then are walking around getting a lot of positive attention for it. Asaph is complaining; he’s mad. We’ve seen David write similar psalms. But we know, as these men knew, God isn’t ignoring these strutting tongues. He sees all, and He knows all.

The LORD is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.
Numbers 14:18 NIV
(10)And so the people are dismayed and confused, drinking in all their words. (11)"What does God know?" they ask. "Does the Most High even know what's happening?" (12)Look at these wicked people--enjoying a life of ease while their riches multiply. (13)Did I keep my heart pure for nothing? Did I keep myself innocent for no reason? (14)I get nothing but trouble all day long; every morning brings me pain.
Psalm 73:10-14 NLT

In his frustration, Asaph saw the ungodly life as the good life. They are always at ease; they always increase in riches. They are rewarded for their wickedness by a God who seems to be as unknowing as the wicked say that he is.

David Guzik, pastor, http://www.enduringword.com

The meaning of verse 10 is unknown with certainty, but here are a couple of translations.

Therefore their people turn to them and drink up waters in abundance. NIV

Therefore his people return here, and abundant waters are drunk by them. NASB2020

Therefore his people turn back to them, and find no fault in them. ESV

Therefore his people return here, and waters of a full cup are drained by them. NKJV

In verse 11, Asaph seems to be saying the wicked claim that God does not see nor care what happens. Therefore, they can do whatever they want. Asaph has a hard time with this. He worked hard to keep his life on track while they wile away having a good old time and seeming to increase in all good things. For Asaph, his righteous life brings only trouble and struggles and pain.

Oh, the unfairness of life.

If I had really spoken this way to others, I would have been a traitor to your people. So I tried to understand why the wicked prosper. But what a difficult task it is! Then I went into your sanctuary, O God, and I finally understood the destiny of the wicked.
Psalm 73:15-17 NLT

Asaph seems to stop himself here and remember God’s children. Maybe he realized that his lamenting and complaining could lead others astray, to a life of unbelief. So he shoots for understanding instead of empty complaining.

Where do we go we do not understand? Where do we go when God seems far away? To where do we run when we despair? Into the presence of the Lord.

It is important to note the place where enlightenment came to the tempted heart of the Psalmist; it came in the house of worship; and the same thing still happens. If men would be strengthened in their faith and delivered from the manifold temptations which the Evil One continually hurls against the sons of God, let him attend the worship services.

James Burton Coffman, pastor, 1905-2006
Truly, you put them on a slippery path and send them sliding over the cliff to destruction. In an instant they are destroyed, completely swept away by terrors. When you arise, O Lord, you will laugh at their silly ideas as a person laughs at dreams in the morning.
Psalm 73:18-20 NLT

Surely you set them in slippery places: This is part of the understanding that Asaph gained in the house of the Lord. He understood that the ease and security of the wicked was really only an illusion, and they were actually set…in slippery places, ready to fall at any time.

David Guzik, pastor, http://www.enduringword.com

Asaph began his song afraid that he was slipping. He went into God’s presence and came out with his feet on Solid Ground. He began his psalm seeing the present, jealous of the moments that others had. Asaph entered into the presence of the Lord and gained an eternal perspective.

Do you need a reminder of what truly matters? I often do. Seek the presence of God, right here, right now, in this very psalm.

Then I realized that my heart was bitter, and I was all torn up inside. I was so foolish and ignorant--I must have seemed like a senseless animal to you. Yet I still belong to you; you hold me my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, leading me to a glorious destiny. 
Psalm 73:21-24 NLT

God wants us to come to Him in our brokenness. He wants His children to seek Him in their pain and confusion, and even in complaint. He is the King of Ages, the Most High, the Ancient of Days…He can handle it.

With him is counsel, and when we come to him, we are sure to be led aright. And afterward. “Afterward!” Blessed word. We can cheerfully put up with present, when we foresee the future. What is around us just now is of small consequence, compared with afterward. Receive me to glory. Take me up into thy splendour of joy.

Charles Spurgeon, English preacher, 1834-1892
"I am leaving you with a gift--peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don't be troubled or afraid."
John 14:27 NLT

Jesus knew what the world had to offer: empty promises, sadness, pain, fear. In the presence of God is joy and hope and peace.

Whom have I in heaven but you? I desire you more than anything on earth. My health may fail, and my spirit grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever. Those who desert him will perish, for you destroy those who abandon you. But as for me, how good it is to be near God! I have made the Sovereign LORD my shelter, and I will tell everyone about the wonderful things you do.
Psalm 73:25-28 NLT

Asaph ends his song with a proclamation of belief. God is his strength, and though the earth and all that is in it will fail, God is faithful. And because of this joy he found, Asaph will sing his song so that others will know the peace he has found in the presence of the Lord.

While he longed for an eternity in the presence of God, Asaph also desired and found the strength and shelter and love of the Lord in the present. One day we will be with Him in eternity. But right now, at this very moment, He also stands beside you and beside me. You are always in the presence of the Lord.

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.
James 4:8a ESV

Father in heaven, thank you for being present in our lives. Thank you for being our strength and our joy and our shelter in times of need. Thank you that we can come to you with all of worries and complaints, and you will never turn us away from the safety of your arms. You are faithful. Give us strength to the face the day. We love you. Amen.

Hexoxo

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