Summary: Until is one of those riveting words of life. It speaks of a cessation of one dynamic and the starting of another. My feet almost slipped... "Until I came to the Sanctuary" Ps 73:17
Until is one of those riveting words of life. It speaks of a cessation of one dynamic and the starting of another. "He was in the desert until..." (Luke 1:80) Ps 105:19 Until the time that his word came: the word of the LORD tried him.
Our text this morning is one of the most significant "until" passages in all the scriptures. It is about the story of a Godly man who was in the midst of very severe spiritual slump... until...
We are going to look at Psalm 73 this morning and from it we are going to get an interesting insight into why some people backslide. We are going to talk about the Essau in you, and plants you don’t want growing in your garden. We will end on a positive note about when God says, "come up here."
Let’s begin with a discussion on why people backslide. We can find two of the main reasons in the text of Psalm 73:
Ps 73:2 But as for me, my feet were almost gone; my steps had well nigh slipped.
Ps 73:3 For I was envious at the foolish, [when] I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
Ps 73:4 For [there are] no bands in their death: but their strength [is] firm.
Ps 73:5 They [are] not in trouble [as other] men; neither are they plagued like [other] men.
Ps 73:6 Therefore pride compasseth them about as a chain; violence covereth them [as] a garment.
Ps 73:7 Their eyes stand out with fatness: they have more than heart could wish. Ps 73:3 For I was envious at the foolish, [when] I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
The writer of Psalm 73 lays out for us the reason he almost backslid, and what brought him up out of that mess.
As I read the text I come up with two reasons people backslide.
1. The Essau in them is crying out to be fed.
2. Personal suffering pushes them away from God.
The first reason people backslide is probably the reason most of us think of when we think of backsliding: they fall prey to their physical lusts. Essau, you remember sold his inheritance for a bowl of stew. In other words, he traded his future to satisfy physical desires. How many times have we seen a "Christian," date or marry a non-Christian to deal with loneliness, abandoning Christian principles for fleshly fulfillment. When we think of backsliding we think of drunkenness, fornication, drug use - all the sins of the flesh. I almost titled the message, "That plant does not belong in my garden," to try to get you thinking of what the bible teaches us about sin. The psalmist is looking at how worldly people are having all their physical appetites fulfilled and it is stirring his fleshly desires. I use the imagery of a garden to remind you about seeds, and roots, and weeds and things that we don’t want to allow to grow, or they will produce a terrible harvest. Asaph saw something very bad growing inside himself, and it was being watered by what the world calls, "bling."
The psalmist says he got envious of what sinners had, and he noticed how they seemed to be living high on the hog. He goes so far as to suggest that it has been a waste of time to serve God because there seems to be so little profit in the godly lifestyle.
Ps 73:13 I’ve been stupid to play by the rules; what has it gotten me? (Message version)
C. S. Lewis said, "Either the Bible will keep you away from sin, or sin will keep you away from the Bible." Asaph is telling us the effect that envy was having on him, it was trying to pull him away from God.
I remember the advertisements we use to have for Snickers candy bar, "to satisfy the hunger inside you." There are hungers inside us, that we have to keep in check. From this passage we learn that envy is a plant that makes us hungry to feed our sensual desires. The book of James tells us a lot about the nature of temptation and sin:
James 1:14 But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.
In other words you can only be tempted about something that was planted, watered, and cultivated in the dirty places of your heart. If you deal with the roots you won’t have to deal with the fruits. The psalmist recognizes the root of envy was growing in his heart and he almost backlsid over it. (V.2) If you learn to think of your heart as a garden, then you learn to realize it needs continual watch and care, it seems to be a fact of nature weeds grow when no other crop can.