September 25, 2017
Psalm 73:3, 16, 17
(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)
One thing I love about the psalms is that they convey all the range of human experience – life and death, love and hate, encouragement and disappointment, confidence and fear, godliness and wickedness, and so on. No matter what situation we find ourselves in, the psalms speak to that particular situation! Here in Psalm 73 is a common dilemma (and its solution) that Asaph (the author of this Psalm) experienced. Let’s look at verses 3, 16, and 17:
…I was envious of the boastful, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
…When I thought how to understand this, it was too painful for me —
until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I understood their end.
Notice that the title of this blog, “…until I went in…” is unusual in that it is a quote from Psalm 73:17 – with no caps. But it conveys not only the solution to the psalmist’s concern. And it can also be applied to a lot of other confounding situations!
Asaph was a Levite – a descendant of Jacob’s son Levi, from whom all the Jewish priests and their helpers descended. According to Eerdman’s The New Bible Dictionary, Asaph was “…a leading singer…of the coral worship….[He] himself had a reputation of a seer [prophet] and was recognized as the author of psalms [50, and 73 through 83].” What were his concerns – the occasion for the writing of Psalm 73?
• Verse 3 (part of our featured Scripture) – “…I was envious of the boastful, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.” (Read on through verses 4 -10, 12). From our earthly point of view, too many of the wicked seem to prosper even though they live ungodly lives! (See Job 21:7-13; Psalm 10:1-11; 94:3-6).
• Verse 11 (God’s Word to the Nations) – “Then wicked people ask, ‘What does God know?…Does the Most High know anything?’ ” In their minds, God is far too small and very human-like! (See Job 21:14, 15; Psalm 10:4, 11; 94:7).
• Verses 13 and 14 (Contemporary English Version) – “What good did it do me to keep my thoughts pure and refuse to do wrong? I am sick all day, and I am punished each morning.” Is it really worthwhile to be godly when there does not seem to be a reward for living a good life?
• Verse 15 (Easy-to-Read Version) – “I wanted to tell others these things, but that would have made me a traitor to Your people.” Asaph wanted to share his concerns with others, but he felt he could be condemned for questioning God!
• Verse 16 (from our featured Scripture) – “When I thought how to understand this, it was too painful for me.” The psalmist just could not understand it all! He couldn’t wrap his mind around all this problem of the wicked prospering, and come up with an acceptable solution on his own.
Have you ever had any of these questions as you look around at the way society seems to work? I have! But, like Asaph, the problem was solved when I went into the sanctuary of God ! What does he mean by that? Remember that the sanctuary of God back in Asaph’s day was the temple. Today we might say the church. But what this means is that we have to get God’s viewpoint on the matter before we can find an acceptable answer! And God gives His viewpoint in the Scriptures! So I guess we could say that in this case, the sanctuary of God is the Bible!
What did Asaph discover when he went into the sanctuary of God – when he considered God’s viewpoint on this troubling subject?
• Verse 17 – “…then I understood their end.” Proverbs tells us twice in 14:12 and 16:25 (Literal Translation of the Holy Bible): “There is a way that seems right to a man, but the end of it is the ways of death.” I chose the Literal Translation because most of the versions I have translate ways as singular – way. But it is important that it is translated in the plural – ways! I wrote about this on August 13, 2014, in a blog called Many Ways, One End! (See also the blog from January 13, 2014 – Many Ways, One Destination). The idea is that mankind comes up with Many Ways to come to God. But there is only one way! And that way is through Jesus Christ! For He says in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” If that one way is to ‘narrow’ for you, you’ll have to take it up with Jesus! He’s the One who made that statement! But getting back to Proverbs 14;12 and 16:25, people devise many ways, and the individual person chooses one way! But unless it is Jesus Christ the Lord, the one end of it is the ways of death – eternal death in hell! (See Revelation 14:11; 20:14).
• Verses 18 through 20 – “Surely you set them in slippery places; Oh, how they are brought to desolation, as in a moment! They are utterly consumed with terrors. As a dream when one awakes, So, Lord, when You awake, You shall despise their image.” This reminds me of the parable that Jesus gave concerning the rich fool in Luke 12:16 through 21. A certain rich man’s idea for the future was to “…build greater…barns… and there I will store all my crops and my goods.” (Luke 12:18). Then he would “…take…[his] ease, eat, drink and be merry.” (Luke 12:19). But in the next verse, verse 20, “…God said to him, ‘You fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’ ” And Jesus closed the parable by saying in Luke 12:21: “So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”
We will finish this study in Wednesday’s blog.