Psalm 73 offers a remarkable glimpse into the authentic heart of a man named Asaph whose role as a worship leader in King David’s court was serious and influential. His struggle? That the so-called wicked seemed to get away with being wicked, while he muddled through trying to be a righteous man, experiencing hardship and discipline.
It just didn’t seem fair.
Consider the observations Asaph was making.
For I was envious of the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
For they have no pangs until death;
their bodies are fat and sleek.
They are not in trouble as others are;
they are not stricken like the rest of mankind.
Therefore pride is their necklace;
violence covers them as a garment.
Their eyes swell out through fatness;
their hearts overflow with follies.
They scoff and speak with malice;
loftily they threaten oppression.
They set their mouths against the heavens,
and their tongue struts through the earth.
Therefore his people turn back to them,
and find no fault in them.
And they say, “How can God know?
Is there knowledge in the Most High?”
Behold, these are the wicked;
always at ease, they increase in riches.
(Psalm 73:3-12 ESV)
In effect, the wicked do whatever it was they want, “always at ease.” This was quite a contrast to how Asaph saw his own life. Psalm 73: 14 finds him assessing his own circumstances. “For all the day long I have been stricken and rebuked every morning.” Hebrews 12:7 and following gives great credence to the Lord’s disciplining ways and their benefit for us who follow him, and yet it can get old. Evidently Asaph thought so; a sensation amplified by the apparent prosperity of the wicked.
But then he went into the sanctuary. This would have likely been the Great Tabernacle, in which resided the Ark of the Covenant and at which place the sacrifices were offered. Incense permeated the environs of this ancient tent. God’s presence was readily affirmed and may well have been clearly manifested in some tangible form (see Exodus 40 and 2 Chronicles 7:1-3; cp. Ezekiel 10-11). Being engulfed with such things that might play on Asaph’s senses caused him to think about things more transcendent than the trivial successes of the wicked about whom was jealous. They many have power and position and prizes galore, but none of it will last past the grave. Meanwhile, Asaph is intimately connected to the God who is greater than earthly wares and ways, and he has an eternal home on his horizon—a home that embodies the truth that God is Asaph’s “portion forever” (Psalm 73:26).
And, if you follow Christ, God is your portion forever too. And the greatest things in time and space are nothing compared to that.
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“Write This Down” is a summary of select teaching moments offered by Pastor Matthew. The preceding summary is from the message “Book III: Psalms 73-89”, the third message from a brief series entitled “Verses to the King: A Survey of the Psalms,” a study through the Psalms, presented on the weekend of June 9, 2013, at Bethel Church.