Summary: We fool the magician (Satan, the master illusionist) by refusing to believe the illusion, pulling back the curtain and trusting the unseen reality.
Some of you may have seen David Copperfield perform his magic. His act includes a lot of glitzy conjuration, including: levitating himself, being sawn in two, and making things appear and disappear. Using illusion, he has carried the art to the extreme. He has “walked through” the Great Wall of China. He has made very large objects seem to disappear: jet planes, the Orient Express and most remarkably the Statue of Liberty. Magic is really the art of illusion. It makes things appear to be what they are not — or not appear when they are. The trick of the illusionist is to use sleight-of-hand to get you to look at one thing while he is doing something else. He makes you think one thing is happening when something else is actually going on. He makes you think that what you see is real while he is hiding what is really happening. To state it briefly, what appears to be is not what is.
That, in essence, is what has happened in Psalm 73. Asaph, the person writing this psalm, was looking at all the wrong things. The magician, the ancient deceiver, had the psalmist’s eyes looking at what he wanted him to see. The devil wanted to discourage and depress him. He did not want him to see what God was doing, so he used sleight-of-hand to distract him with what he was doing. The writer of the psalm was looking at the prosperity of the wicked, and because of that failed to see what God was up to. As a result, his feet almost slipped and he nearly lost his foothold as far as his walk with God went. It discouraged and defeated him. He was ready to give up and call it quits even though it was an illusion. He looked at the people who scorned God and it seemed like they had it made. He mused: “They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. They are free from the burdens common to man; they are not plagued by human ills” (Psalm 73:4-5). This was the same complaint that Jeremiah had when he wrote: “You are always righteous, O Lord, when I bring a case before you. Yet I would speak with you about your justice: Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all the faithless live at ease?” (Jeremiah 12:1). But this is the trick of illusionist. He distracts you with what he is doing to keep you from seeing what is really going on.
How do we escape being tricked? How do we fool the magician? The first step in fooling the magician is by: Refusing to believe the illusion. How many people who saw David Copperfield make the Statue of Liberty disappear actually believed it was no longer there? How many people who have seen people levitating as metal hoops were passed around them believed the person was actually suspended in space? Perhaps there were some, but most understood that even though it looked like those things were happening, they were not real. It would be pretty foolish to believe that someone had actually removed the Statue of Liberty. But many people are just as naive in believing that what appears to be is actually what is, as far as evil appearing to be the dominant and prevailing force in this world. The magician has them fooled and they begin to believe that evil is stronger than good and winning the battle. And when that happens, the magician has done his job. He makes things appear worse than they are. He uses discouragement to try and defeat you when you are trying to follow God. He whispers in your ear: “See, I am winning, and there is nothing you can do about it. You might as well give in. You might as well give up.”
For years William Wilberforce had pushed Britain’s Parliament to abolish slavery. But the battle was very long and it looked as though nothing was ever going to change. The political powers were daunting and seemed unmovable. He was discouraged and about to give up. But his elderly friend, John Wesley, heard of it and from his deathbed called for pen and paper. With trembling hand Wesley wrote: “Unless God has raised you up for this very thing, you will be won out by the opposition of men and devils. But if God be for you, who can be against you? Are all of them stronger than God? Oh be not weary of well-doing! Go on, in the name of God and in the power of His might, till even American slavery shall vanish away before it.” Wesley died six days later, but Wilberforce fought on for another 45 years before he saw slavery abolished in England — just three days before his own death. Wilberforce refused to believe the illusion that evil was invincible.