Summary: In the midst of a tragedy, return to God - our only true refuge. He is the strength of our heart.
Psalm 73 - GOD IS THE STRENGTH OF MY HEART
Terrorist attack on New York’s World Trade Centres and Pentagon, 11 Sep 2001.
This is one of the most difficult week for all. Much worse for those in the States. We’ve come to see the truly ugly side of what human beings are capable of. In the face of this kind of evil, we look for words to comfort, even for ourselves. Psalm 73 describes how we feel today - when evil seems to proper.
Written by Asaph, a Levite; one of the leaders of David’s choir (1 Chron 6:39). He shares his inner struggles in this psalm, when he saw the things the ungodly people were doing.
4They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. 5They are free from the burdens common to man; they are not plagued by human ills. 6Therefore pride is their necklace; they clothe themselves with violence.
7From their callous hearts comes iniquity; the evil conceits of their minds know no limits.8 They scoff, and speak with malice; in their arrogance they threaten oppression.
9Their mouths lay claim to heaven, and their tongues take possession of the earth. 10Therefore their people turn to them and drink up waters in abundance.
11They say, "How can God know? Does the Most High have knowledge?" 12This is what the wicked are like-- always carefree, they increase in wealth.
- The ungodly trains themselves to fight for their cause. They are fit and strong.
- They take pride in what they do. Openly proclaim the success of evil deeds.
- No limits to their evil plans - unbelievable.
- They think by doing so they’ll enter heaven - a glorious thing.
- They are not afraid of anything, not death, not even God.
When he saw all these, the psalmist says in 73:2-3
2But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. 3For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
He almost fell... into the devil’s trap - doubting God, as if He has lost control of things - that the ungodly has triumphed. He says (73:13-16),
13Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure; in vain have I washed my hands in innocence. 14All day long I have been plagued; I have been punished every morning.
He almost wanted to say, "It’s no use doing right." The wicked seemed to be prospering, but the righteous suffering. The psalmist describes the agony. He was greatly oppressed by what he sees.
He was going through such a struggle until verse 17
17till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny.
When he entered the sanctuary of God - in order words, when he comes into God’s presence. His perspective changes completely. When he seek God, when he prays, he began to understand God’s will and purposes. Then he realised... all that he was thinking is not true. Evil did not triumph. All evil-doers will be punished. Satan and his devils will be judged. "...then I understood their final destiny."
18Surely you place them on slippery ground; you cast them down to ruin. 19How suddenly are they destroyed, completely swept away by terrors! 20As a dream when one awakes, so when you arise, O Lord, you will despise them as fantasies.
One day, God will set things right. The wicked will be judged. Previously the psalmist’s heart was grieved and his spirit embittered (v.21), because he was ignorant, without the right understanding (v.22). Now he understands.
This is actually the theme of his psalm - that’s why he puts it in the first line - v.1 "Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart." God has never changed - He is One who is righteous and just. God is the sovereign Lord who is still in control. The wicked will not stand. God is giving them time to realise their wrongs and repent, because He is merciful, He is patient, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance (2 Pet 3:9).
In the midst of all the evil around him, he puts his faith in God (Psalm 73:23-28)
23Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. 24You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. (all the way until I die...) 25Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.26My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
27Those who are far from you will perish; you destroy all who are unfaithful to you.28But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign LORD my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds.