Summary: Why did the wicked prosper and the faithful suffer? Through Psalm 73 our God brings us comfort and strength as we struggle with this question.
Text: Psalm 73:1-28
Theme: Remember What’s Ahead
Season: The Last Sunday after Epiphany: Transfiguration
Date: February 14, 2010
Web page: http://hancocklutheran.org/sermons/Remember-What_s-Ahead-Psalm73_1-28.html
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. The Word from God through which the Holy Spirit stirs our hearts is Psalm 73
"A psalm of Asaph.
"Surely, God is good to Israel, to the pure of heart.
"But as for me, my feet nearly went out from under me. My life’s way was poured out as nothing.
"For I envied the arrogant boasters. I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
"For there weren’t any chains leading them to death. Their bellies were well-fed.
"They didn’t toil like men. They weren’t stricken with the rest of humanity.
"So pride was their necklace and violence covered them as a garment.
"Their eyes bulged out looking for more, and conceited schemes ran through their heart.
"They mocked and spoke wickedly. They used their high position to threaten and extort.
"They placed their mouths in heaven; their tongues strutted on earth.
"So his people turned there, and abundant waters are guzzled by them.
"They say, "How does God know? Is there knowledge in the Most High?"
"See! These are the wicked. They make their wealth grow while always at ease.
"Surely, I kept my heart pure and washed my hands clean for nothing.
"I have been stricken all day long and rebuked every morning.
"If I say, "I will speak like this," behold, I would betray the generation of your children.
"I was contemplating how to know this. It’s a toil in my sight, until I went to the sanctuary of God. Then I understood their end.
"Surely, you have set them in slippery places. You make them fall into ruin.
"How they waste away in a moment! They completely come to an end from destruction.
"O Lord, when you awake, you despise their images like a dream on awakening.
"When my mind soured and I was pricked in my heart, I was a brute and did not know. I was like cattle toward you.
"But I am always with you. You hold me by my right hand.
"You guide me with your counsel, and afterwards you take me into glory.
"Whom do I have in heaven besides you? Besides you there is nothing on earth I delight in.
"My flesh and my heart fail. God is the rock of my heart and my portion forever.
"For look! Those who are far from you will perish. You put an end to all who commit adultery against you.
"But as for me, it is good for me to be near God. I have made the Lord GOD my shelter to recount all your works." (Psalm 73:1-28)
Dear friends in Christ, fellow saints washed clean in the blood of our risen Savior:
1. What troubling question did Asaph face, just as we do?
He was a mid-west boy born in Iowa, growing up in Minnesota and Wisconsin, his parents now living in Duluth, but he was in Haiti helping the poor. Young and full of life, only twenty-five years old, but he, along with Renee his wife of two years and his cousin Jonathan, was in Haiti to help. That morning he had assisted a nurse in caring for the needy in the slums of Port-au-Prince. That evening he lay crushed under the collapsed ceiling of St. Joseph’s Home for Boys. Another fatality of the earthquake of January 12. (adapted from
http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2010/02/08/loss-in-haiti/ both retrieved on 12 Feb 2010).
That’s but one story. We could come up with many more stories of bad things happening to good people or good things happening to bad people even though they only continue in their wickedness. Our times are no different from any other era of history. God’s people have wrestled with that age-old question. Why follow God when the wicked prosper and the faithful suffer?
As we stand before Jesus with Peter, James, and John on the mount of Transfiguration today, we find comfort in our struggle with this question and strength to persevere, as we remember what’s ahead. It’s the same comfort and strength that Asaph received from God as he struggled with that question in Psalm 73. This comfort and strength does not come from receiving a reasonable explanation to satisfy our human sense of fairness. Rather these words of comfort plummet to the depths of our being to underpin our faith with the Lord’s promises. They bring a depth of comfort and a richness of strengthen that reason cannot fathom. May the Holy Spirit be our guide as we mine the word of God recorded in Psalm 73 and through it remember what’s ahead.
Asaph was a temple musician at the time of King David. As he writes this Psalm, he recalls how he almost fell from faith. He writes, "But as for me, my feet nearly went out from under me. My life’s way was poured out as nothing. For I envied the arrogant boasters. I saw the prosperity of the wicked." (Psalm 73:2, 3).