Weds 14 April - Psalm 73
1 Surely God is good to Israel,
to those who are pure in heart.
2 But as for me, my feet had almost slipped;
I had nearly lost my foothold.
3 For I envied the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
4 They have no struggles;
their bodies are healthy and strong.
5 They are free from common human burdens;
they are not plagued by human ills.
6 Therefore pride is their necklace;
they clothe themselves with violence.
7 From their callous hearts comes iniquity;
their evil imaginations have no limits.
8 They scoff, and speak with malice;
with arrogance they threaten oppression.
9 Their mouths lay claim to heaven,
and their tongues take possession of the earth.
10 Therefore their people turn to them
and drink up waters in abundance.[c]
11 They say, ‘How would God know?
Does the Most High know anything?’
12 This is what the wicked are like –
always free of care, they go on amassing wealth.
13 Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure
and have washed my hands in innocence.
14 All day long I have been afflicted,
and every morning brings new punishments.
15 If I had spoken out like that,
I would have betrayed your children.
16 When I tried to understand all this,
it troubled me deeply
17 till I entered the sanctuary of God;
then I understood their final destiny.
18 Surely you place them on slippery ground;
you cast them down to ruin.
19 How suddenly are they destroyed,
completely swept away by terrors!
20 They are like a dream when one awakes;
when you arise, Lord,
you will despise them as fantasies.
21 When my heart was grieved
and my spirit embittered,
22 I was senseless and ignorant;
I was a brute beast before you.
23 Yet I am always with you;
you hold me by my right hand.
24 You guide me with your counsel,
and afterwards you will take me into glory.
25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion for ever.
27 Those who are far from you will perish;
you destroy all who are unfaithful to you.
28 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.
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Meditation on Psalm 73
As we begin Book lll of the Psalms we come into 11 Psalms of Asaph. Come back to 1 Chronicles 15-16 to understand how Asaph is linked to these Psalms. David had pitched a tent for the ark of God and set about choosing various groups from the Levites to minister before the ark of God – for example the musicians. Three leaders were chosen – Heman, Asaph and Ethan. They were to sound the bronze cymbals.
‘Asaph was appointed, with his associates, to give praise to the LORD as directed by David’ (1 Chronicles 16:7-36)
‘Asaph was left before the ark of the covenant to minister there regularly according to each day’s requirements.’ (1 Chronicles 16:37)
Notice that the names Asaph, Heman and Ethan (later known as Jeduthun) are still important in the reigns of Hezekiah and Josiah, three to four hundred years after David.
They must have been very old by then!
No – the name would have been carried on by the original Asaph’s descendants. They all had an important part to play in the unfolding story of God’s people through the Old Testament.
In this first of the Asaph Psalms (although Psalm 50 is also attributed to Asaph), we are confronted with an issue that has come down through the centuries and is still heard today.
How come the wicked prosper while the godly suffer?
His starting point is one of confidence in God – verse 1 ‘Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.’
He is trying to convince himself of that truth – ‘surely’ carries a lot of weight in that opening sentence. This is what Israel believes. There is no other god who is ‘good to Israel’.
Verses 2-12 The problem that Asaph faces
Come back to Psalm 1. The first three verses encourage God’s people as they ‘delight in the law of the LORD; who meditate on His law day and night.’
So far so good and even better when we come to verse 4 … ‘not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away.’
That doesn’t seem to ring true with Asaph and he is struggling within himself as he slips and ‘nearly loses his foothold.’
See how he sees the wicked…
- no struggles
- healthy and strong
- free from common burdens
- not plagued by human ills
- poisoned tongues
- leading others astray
- no thought of God and accuse Him of ignorance
- think they are in charge of heaven and earth
Verses 13-17 The situation Asaph finds himself in
What’s the point? Why should I bother?
Michael Wilcock comments, ‘the point is sharpened when the psalmist begins to be plagued and punished – when the righteous receive what the wicked deserve.’
He seems to take stock of this situation and concludes that he mustn’t air these concerns in public as it would be a real let-down for the people of God – ‘I would have betrayed your children.’
Notice what he says, ‘It troubles me deeply UNTIL I ENTERED THE SANCTUARY OF GOD; THEN I UNDERSTOOD THEIR FINAL DESTINATION.’ (Capitals are mine)
Verses 18-28 The solution Asaph discovers
- God is the righteous Judge and He will have the final say. The wicked will be ruined, destroyed and ruined.
- I wallowed in self-pity and ignorance in my reactions…
BUT GOD …
- is with me
- is my guide
- will bring me to glory
- is my strength
His conclusion is clear and a challenge to each of us:
- Am I ‘near God’?
- Is He my refuge?
- Will I tell others about Him?
Thursday 15 April - Psalm 74
Friday 16 April - Psalm 75
Saturday 17 April - Psalm 76
Sunday 18 April - Psalm 77
Monday 19 April - Psalm 78
Tuesday 20 April - Psalm 79