Summary: Asaph the Music Minister lost his focus and became envious of the wicked. But one trip to God’s house helped him to refocus and become grateful.
When we read the Psalms we need to first understand what they are. They are a collection of poetry that has been set to music. They are songs of poetry, most of them written by David but also by other writers. They were written at different times in Israel’s history. Some of them were written while David was on the run from King Saul. Others were written by the returning Jews after their captivity in Babylon. There were some written after great victories and some after devastating defeats. But they are more than poems with music they are a part of the Bible which makes them the Word of God. You see each poem was written by someone who was anointed by the Spirit of God. Even when they were writing out of hurt and disappointment, it was directed by God so that the readers or the listeners could see how God responds to the hurting and how the hurting trusted in the Lord. One of my favorite Psalms is Psalms 73. The writers name is Asaph. Asaph is one of the leaders of David’s choir (1Ch 6:39). He is the author of Psalms 50 and 73-83. He is mentioned along with David as skilled in music, and a "seer" or a prophet of God (2Ch 29:30).
In Psalms 73 Asaph starts out by saying how good God had been to Israel. He recognizes God’s hand in the affairs of his nation. He has no problem seeing the blessings of God upon those around him. He could look and witness to the fact that he lived in a blessed country. He knew what God had done for David. He knew how far Israel had come. He knew their history.
He knew that God had brought them out of the wilderness as wondering vagabonds and gave them a land that flows with milk and honey. It was a prosperous land, a land that Asaph and his family now lived in. But he had a small problem. While he was thankful about what God had done for Israel, and he could see God’s blessings upon those around him, he went through a season where he couldn’t see God’s blessings upon himself. You see, he began to look around him and analyze the lifestyles of the wicked. He starts out by saying…
Psalms 73:1-14 (NKJV)
1 A Psalm of Asaph. Truly God is good to Israel, To such as are pure in heart.
2 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.
He began by noticing the blessings of God, but like so many of us he took his eyes off of God and tried to figure out life. This is what he said… I became envious when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. Envy is what blinded him from the truth. Envy is that monster of resentment that rises up within us when we see someone else with something that we think they don’t deserve. We deserve it but they surly don’t deserve it. I’ve worked harder than them and I’ve worked longer than them. Who do they think they are enjoying life the way that they do? I wish they would quit holding hands like that and act like a married couple.
Envy is dangerous in every form but it is especially lethal to a child of God who begins to try and understand this life by looking at the externals of those around them. Envy almost caused Asaph to walk away from God. Listen to his train of thought concerning the unsaved…
4 For there are no pangs in their death, But their strength is firm.
In other words… they die natural deaths without disease. Now we know that’s not true, because the saved and the unsaved suffer from disease. But this is what happens when we allow envy to invade our hearts; we only see what envy allows us to see.
5 They are not in trouble as other men, Nor are they plagued like other men.
The word “trouble” means worried and the word plagued means to strike violently. In other words Asaph came to the conclusion that people who didn’t serve the Lord had no worries and were never attacked. Again we know that’s not the truth, just turn on your evening news any night of the week and you’ll see that all types of people suffer from worry and violent attacks. But envy causes him to see only what envy wants him to see. And the more he allows envy to control his thoughts the less he thinks about the goodness of God.
** Greek proverb: As rust corrupts iron, so envy corrupts man.