Monday, November 19, 2018

Psalm 73: A Psalm for Our Times

Even though Psalm 73 was probably composed in the early 900s BC, it sounds as if it might have been written yesterday. That's how applicable the Bible is to every time and every place. Of course, since the Scripture is God's inspired Word, that's not particularly surprising, but every once in a while, a text will stand out as especially relevant, and Psalm 73 is one of those.

The psalm begins with a confession. The author, who is identified as Asaph, a Levite musician in the days of King David, admits that God is good to the pure of heart, to those who are upright, but he doesn't feel like he belongs to that group. He always seems to be on the edge of stumbling, nearly slipping away from God. Why? Asaph notices the arrogance of the wicked and how much they prosper in this world, and his heart becomes full of envy.

Those wicked ones, he observes, don't seem to have any problems at all. They're healthy. They don't experience the trials of other people. They control everyone else with their powerful presence (and their threats). People praise them on every side (mostly because they are afraid not to), and their wealth just keeps on increasing.

Asaph can't understand it, and he wonders why he works so hard to remain innocent. He is plagued by trials right, left, and center, and those who couldn't care less about purity seem to flourish. It makes no sense.

But then Asaph catches himself in his folly. If he were to speak like that, he too would be wicked. He would be turning away from the faith of God's people, the faith he has loyally embraced for so long. He decides that he must broaden his perspective if he's going to understand this problem, and he must bring his questions to prayer. So he enters the sanctuary of God, and suddenly everything became clear.

The wicked may prosper in this world. They may seem to have everything going for them. But this world isn't all there is. God is in control, and the eternity of the wicked will be far from prosperous. Those wicked people, Asaph realizes, are the ones who are truly standing on slippery ground. Their ruin will overtake them. In God's time, they will suffer the consequences of their actions. They will be destroyed, swept away in terror. They will fade away. Justice will come, perhaps not in this world, but certainly in the world to come.

Asaph actually feels pretty stupid after this realization hits him. How could he not have seen it before? Is he no more than a brute beast? He is just so weak, so ignorant. But he remembers, with gratitude, that even in his weakness and ignorance, God has never left his side. God is always holding him by the hand, guiding him, supporting him, giving him strength. “Whom have I in heaven but You?” he calls out to God. “And there is nothing on earth that I desire other than You.”

Asaph gives himself fully to God in the midst of the crazy, mixed up, nasty world in which he lives. He trusts God completely. When his body and his heart fail, he knows that God will be his portion forever. Those who are far from God will perish, but those who cling to Him in trust will remain with Him forever. No matter how bad the world gets, Asaph proclaims that it is simply good to be with God, to make Him one's refuge, to tell everyone that God's works are wonderful, are perfect, and to proclaim that God has a plan for His people even in the darkest times.

Really, Asaph might well have written the exact same psalm if he had been living today.

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