Sometimes it seems that our lives go from one trouble to another. It appears that there is an endless stream of sickness, stress, trials and heartaches heading our way. Surely since we are following the Lord things ought to be going better than they are! Psalm 73 will give us some fresh insight to all of this.
God is good
“Truly God is good to Israel, even to such as are of a clean heart” (:1).
This psalm was written by Asaph, a godly man who wrote 12 of the 150 psalms. He was the leader of the choral worship under David (1 Chronicles 16:4-5). He held an important spiritual position. Here he begins his song with an affirmation about God, that is, “God is good”. Every Biblical truth flows from this attribute, for His goodness is firmly rooted in love because “God is love” (1 John 4:8, 16). It might not always seems like it to the flesh, but God is always good towards us. “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” (Matthew 7:11).
The psalmist believed this, but like us, he struggled with what he saw all around him. His problem was with self. People are preoccupied with trying to improve themselves and conditions. It is so easy for our focus to fade when there is so much evil in the world, especially since wicked people seem to get away with it. Often we measure life by what we see, feel and experience in the natural. Here are three things that can get us to take our eyes off of the Lord.
1. Envy. “But as for me, my feet were almost gone; my steps had well nigh slipped. For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked” (:2-3). In reality Asaph ought to have meditated upon all the wonderful blessing that God had given him, but instead he became jealous of the riches and the good life the wicked were enjoying. It is interesting to note that the word “prosperity” in :3 is ‘shalom’ in Hebrew. So it did not seem fair that sinners were living in peace and security while he had a mountain of troubles to face. The seeming injustice of it all was enough to destroy his faith in God.
2. Covetousness. “For there are no bands in their death: but their strength is firm. They are not in trouble as other men; neither are they plagued like other men. Therefore pride compasseth them about as a chain; violence covereth them as a garment. Their eyes stand out with fatness: they have more than heart could wish. They are corrupt, and speak wickedly concerning oppression: they speak loftily. They set their mouth against the heavens, and their tongue walketh through the earth. Therefore his people return hither: and waters of a full cup are wrung out to them. And they say, How doth God know? and is there knowledge in the most High? Behold, these are the ungodly, who prosper in the world; they increase in riches” (:4-12). These verses give us a list of what Asaph believed that godless people were enjoying in their lives. They had everything going for them. They had health and wealth in abundance. They were able to do whatever they pleased without worrying about God punishing them. They mocked believers and spoke blasphemously against God. Life was easy for them. It did not seem fair.
3. Futility. “Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocency. For all the day long have I been plagued, and chastened every morning” (:13-14). Why bother serving Christ when the rewards for not doing so seem to be greater? Does a life of holiness and sanctification really pay off? This was an attack from Satan to destroy his faith. The unsaved can do what they want and enjoy their lives, but we have to live according to God’s commandments and suffer for it. It is so unfair that it makes us want to throw in the towel.
When we walk by sight and not by faith (see 2 Corinthians 5:7), our vision becomes clouded by sin. We become confused and maybe even backslide. But as soon as we set our eyes back on Christ, faith is restored. Here are five areas were we begin to see things clearer once we view them from God’s position.
1. Responsibility. “If I say, I will speak thus; behold, I should offend against the generation of thy children” (:15). If we have our doubts about anything, then we ought not share them with others, otherwise we will be guilty of undermining their faith in God. We all want others to attend our pity party, but it only makes matters worse. Yes, we should talk things through with the spiritually mature, but never with those who are young or weak in the faith.
2. Renewal. “When I thought to know this, it was too painful for me; Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end” (:16-17). Asaph found that walking by sight did not bring him any comfort or answer his questions. In fact, coveting what the ungodly had only made matters worse. Unless halted he would continue on the path to destruction. So he turns his attention back upon the Lord and he was blessed with fresh insight into life. His mind was renewed and the realities of not serving God dawned on him. To sell his soul for a few years of ease was not worth it.
3. Realisation. “Surely thou didst set them in slippery places: thou castedst them down into destruction. How are they brought into desolation, as in a moment! they are utterly consumed with terrors. As a dream when one awaketh; so, O Lord, when thou awakest, thou shalt despise their image” (:18-20). Now Asaph saw things from God’s point of view. What an terrible destination the unsaved are heading for! They are not really prospering at all, in fact, if they do not have salvation, they have nothing worth living for. What is the point of coveting the possessions of others if their wealth is dragging them to Hell? Instead of envying them, we ought to be concerned enough to warn them about their eternal torment.
4. Recognition. “Thus my heart was grieved, and I was pricked in my reins. So foolish was I, and ignorant: I was as a beast before thee” (:21-22). Asaph’s jealousy turned him into an angry wild beast. He spoke and acted less than human. His desires were uncontrolled like a beast of the field. This means that he was convicted by the Holy Spirit for allowing his mind to be led astray by the world. Evolution teaches that man came from beasts, so no wonder we see him acting like them. The fact is that it is sin that makes a beast out of a person. We do not have to copy them!
5. Recommitment. “Nevertheless I am continually with thee: thou hast holden me by my right hand. Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee. My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever. For, lo, they that are far from thee shall perish: thou hast destroyed all them that go a whoring from thee. 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” (:23-28). Asaph promises to listen to the counsel of God rather than the desires of the flesh. What are we blessed with? We have God’s presence and protection. We have His guidance and glory. In fact, when all is considered, all we need is the Lord. God can and will provide all we can ever need. “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). We do not need the wealth of this world for a few short years when we have the riches of Heaven to look forward to for ever. Asaph rejoiced in God and recommitted his life to His service. He was going to tell everyone about what he owned in Heaven and how blessed he was on earth.
Bad things happen to good people sometimes, but how we react to them is what matters. If we find ourselves in a similar frame of mind as Asaph when things seem to be going wrong for us, then do what he did. All we need to do is turn our attention fully on the Lord, for He will open our hearts, minds and eyes to what really matters. We will find that it will be impossible to keep quiet about Christ. We’ll no longer talk about the prosperity of the wicked, but about the power of God and the promises He has made to us. Life might not be fair at times, but God always is.