Summary: Christians sometimes wonder why they experience trials and corrections while the ungodly seem to prosper. This is examined in the light of Psalm 73.
For the last two weeks we have talked about “Foundational Guidance,” those things we do regardless of circumstances, “come what may.” We took our first message from Micah 6:8 where God tells us to (1) do justly (2) to love mercy (3) and walk humbly with your God.
Last Sunday our text was Psalm 50. There we added three more things God wants us to do—always, at all times, in all circumstances: (1) offer thanksgiving (2) pay your vows (3) call upon the Lord in the day of trouble.
Our text today is Psalm 73. Asaph is the author of this Psalm. He was David’s chief musician (1 Chron. 16:4-6); and we know from 2 Chron. 35:15 that his family carried on the tradition of worship. Asaph wrote Psalm 50 that we ministered from last week; and he wrote Ps 73-Ps 83.1
In Ps 73 Asaph shares a personal experience that he went through. It is an experience I can identify with and I think you will, as well. He begins with a summary of his conclusion as a result of this experience.
Follow with me as we read verse 1, “Truly God is good to Israel, To such as are pure in heart.” If you are one of God’s children and your heart is sincere toward Him, you can count on it—God is treating you good! “Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever (Ps 118:29). The goodness of the Lord to His people is a certainty. The Hebrew word translated “Truly” ('ak) is a particle of affirmation. It means “it is so,” indeed, certainly, God is good to His people. The word is also restrictive in that it means God is “only” good to His people. There is no shadow of darkness in Him. He is pure light and pure love. He orders our steps with infinite wisdom and unadulterated goodness. 2 God only works for your good (Rom. 8:28). He is unreservedly for you; not against you. “Truly God is good to Israel, To such as are pure in heart.” This is always true and never not true for the “true” Israel, “To such as are pure in heart.”
I. The STRUGGLE Asaph experienced in coming to this conclusion.
Follow with me as we read verses 2-3.
“But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled; My steps had nearly slipped. 3 For I was envious of the boastful, When I saw the prosperity of the wicked.”
The prosperity of the wicked: “I thought God blessed and prospered the righteous; and He judges the wicked?” What Asaph observes flies in the face of what was a prevailing theology in the past and is still prevalent among many Christians. It’s very simple. God prospers the righteous. He gives them good jobs, healthy families, trouble-free lives. Conversely God pours judgement and contempt on ungodly people. He makes their lives miserable because they have offended Him by the way they live. There is just enough truth in that to make it seem right to a lot of people.
For example, Job’s friends were trying to get Job to see his experience from that perspective. “Job, you’re having an inordinate amount of trouble. That tells us you must be a terrible sinner. If you would just repent of whatever it is you’re doing that offends God, then you could return to prosperity.” They give him lecture after lecture that amounts to this theology. If you’re living a righteous life, good things will happen to you. If you live an unrighteous life, bad things will happen to you. So we can easily tell the good guys from the bad guys.3 The good guys are the ones who have a lot of money and good health and everything is going their way. The bad guys are the ones that are not doing life right. As a result they have a whole lot of troubles.
But when we read the end of the story in the last chapter of the book, we hear God telling these theologians, you got it wrong. That is an over simplistic understanding of how I work. The fiery trial Job went through was not a sign of God’s disfavor on Job’s life. It was actually a preparation for increased blessing.
So in our text Asaph looks at wicked people and they are prospering, living in luxury and health, doing as they please and getting away with it. They walk around with their noses in the air, looking down on other people. They make crooked business deals and then brag on their abundance. They even blaspheme God and nothing happens to them. Asaph describes it all in verses 4-12 “For there are no pangs in their death, But their strength is firm.” You would at least expect it to be a terrible experience when they came right down to death’s door. But, no, they even have an easy death. What’s going on here?