Have you ever noticed that it seems as if sometimes the children of God experience more hardship in this life than those who live a flippantly wicked life? In this Psalm, we see that we are not the only ones to notice that.
A study of Psalm 73 is going to answer a very important question. Is it worth it to follow the Lord Jesus no matter what?
Let us first begin by reading the Psalm, and then we will peel the onion and see what God’s word is telling us.
Truly God is good to Israel,
to those who are pure in heart.
But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled,
my steps had nearly slipped.
For I was envious of the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
For they have no pangs until death;
their bodies are fat and sleek.
They are not in trouble as others are;
they are not stricken like the rest of mankind.
Therefore pride is their necklace;
violence covers them as a garment.
Their eyes swell out through fatness;
their hearts overflow with follies.
They scoff and speak with malice;
loftily they threaten oppression.
They set their mouths against the heavens,
and their tongue struts through the earth.
Therefore his people turn back to them,
and find no fault in them.[a]
And they say, “How can God know?
Is there knowledge in the Most High?”
Behold, these are the wicked;
always at ease, they increase in riches.
All in vain have I kept my heart clean
and washed my hands in innocence.
For all the day long I have been stricken
and rebuked every morning.
If I had said, “I will speak thus,”
I would have betrayed the generation of your children.
But when I thought how to understand this,
it seemed to me a wearisome task,
until I went into the sanctuary of God;
then I discerned their end.
Truly you set them in slippery places;
you make them fall to ruin.
How they are destroyed in a moment,
swept away utterly by terrors!
Like a dream when one awakes,
O Lord, when you rouse yourself, you despise them as phantoms.
When my soul was embittered,
when I was pricked in heart,
I was brutish and ignorant;
I was like a beast toward you.
Nevertheless, I am continually with you;
you hold my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will receive me to glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength[b] of my heart and my portion forever.
For behold, those who are far from you shall perish;
you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you.
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.
This is a Psalm of Asaph, Asaph was David’s music director He begins this Psalm the way many Psalms begin, that is, with the conclusion. The rest of the Psalm describes how he came to this conclusion
(2) But as for me, my feet were almost gone; my steps had well nigh slipped.
We see here that even though Asaph ended up with the conclusion that he did, he nearly didn’t.
Why? Verse 3 tells us.
(3) For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
Asaph makes a short-term comparison between the wicked and those who are faithful to God in verses 3-12
(4) For there are no bands in their death: but their strength is firm
Modern translations say it like this- “For they have no pangs until death; their bodies are fat and sleek.”
It seems to say the same thing as Job 21:13 They spend their days in wealth, and in a moment go down to the grave.
(5) They are not in trouble as other men; neither are they plagued like other men.
The wicked don’t seem to have the same struggles in life others do.
(6) Therefore pride compasseth them about as a chain; violence covereth them as a garment.
They flaunt their pride and their wickedness around, they don’t even pretend to hide it.
(7) Their eyes stand out with fatness: they have more than heart could wish.
They seem to have more than they could ever need and they enjoy looking at it.
(8) They are corrupt, and speak wickedly concerning oppression: they speak loftily.
They look down on and make fun of those righteous people who have nothing.
(9) They set their mouth against the heavens, and their tongue walketh through the earth.
They speak wickedly against God, God’s people, and God’s ways.
(10) Therefore his people return hither: and waters of a full cup are wrung out to them.
(11) And they say, How doth God know? and is there knowledge in the most High?
Here some who claim to be God’s people turn away from God and turn to the lifestyle of the ungodly because it seems to be the better life.
(12) Behold, these are the ungodly, who prosper in the world; they increase in riches.
He concludes this comparison by pointing out that this is seemingly the lot in life for those wicked people, They prosper, and they get rich.
(13) Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocency.
And here, Asaph comes to the temporary conclusion that following the Lord is vain, that he does not benefit from it.
Not only does he not benefit from it, following the Lord actually brings trouble into his life. The Bible doesn’t hide this fact, we see it over and over again with God’s people in scripture.
Jesus himself doesn’t beat around the bush about this.
Matthew 5:11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.
Matthew 5:44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
Matthew 10:23 When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.
Matthew 23:34 Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town,
John 15:20 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.
(14) For all the day long have I been plagued, and chastened every morning.
(15) If I say, I will speak thus; behold, I should offend against the generation of thy children.
Even though this was the conclusion Asaph came to, he found that he could not say it out loud, because, in his heart, he knew that it somehow was not right to say it.
This is where we see what he was talking about in verse 2 when he says his feet almost slipped. He almost says that serving the Lord isn’t worth it, but he doesn’t say it.
(16) When I thought to know this, it was too painful for me;
Asaph was in pain over these thoughts he was having because he knew they were wrong, but he had no answers for what he was seeing.
(17) Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end.
Here we see a turning point. Why? Because Asaph goes into the sanctuary of God, and here he gets understanding. This is where he begins to see the now in light of eternity
(18) Surely thou didst set them in slippery places: thou castedst them down into destruction.
Asaph now realizes that the life they are living is actually a form of judgment.
We see a great example of this in the New Testament when three Times in Romans 1, Paul describes the actions of the wicked and talks about how God has turned them over to their lusts and their wickedness.
(19) How are they brought into desolation, as in a moment! they are utterly consumed with terrors.
(20) As a dream when one awaketh; so, O Lord, when thou awakest, thou shalt despise their image.
Here we see what Asaph came to understand, because they have everything they want they will never turn to God, and because they never turn to God the instant they die they will be in eternal torment.
(21) Thus my heart was grieved, and I was pricked in my reins.
(22) So foolish was I, and ignorant: I was as a beast before thee.
Asaph truly sees his foolishness at this point, he had been saying in his heart that God wasn’t being fair in His dealings with man, but he realizes he was wrong and humbles himself before God.
Why? All because he entered the sanctuary of God, and why did that help him?
When God’s people come into His house among His people and sit under His Word and hear His promises….. they believe it. why?
John 10:27 tells us. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”
We have a great picture of this happening in
And after the meeting of the synagogue broke up, many Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who, as they spoke with them, urged them to continue in the grace of God. The next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began to contradict what was spoken by Paul, reviling him. And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, “‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.'” And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.
Asaph’s humbling process brought about a real sense of God’s presence ever with him.
(23) Nevertheless I am continually with thee: thou hast holden me by my right hand.
(24) Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory.
Asaph now realizes God’s Spirit and Word are guiding him and will guide him all the way to glory.
This trial has also brought about a sense of utter dependence on the Lord and desire for the Lord.
(25) Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.
2 Corinthians 1:8-9 sheds even more light on this.
“For we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.”
Asaph in these last verses states his final position and his ultimate conclusion.
(26) My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.
(27) For, lo, they that are far from thee shall perish: thou hast destroyed all them that go a whoring from thee.
(28) But it is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord GOD, that I may declare all thy works.
Notice in verse 28 that Asaph, this time, is able to say out loud, unlike before, because his heart knows it to be true.
Though this life has struggles, pain, and heartache, and it seems as though some who do not know the Lord have very little struggle in life, we can say that it is worth it to follow the Lord Jesus.
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