Psalm 73:  Then I Understood Their End

When I thought how to understand this, It was too painful for me– Until I went into the sanctuary of God; Then I understood their end. Psalm 73:16, 17

 

Pondering the Prosperity of the Wicked

 

Asaph confesses envy of the carefree life of the wicked in this world.  He became bitter, feeling his own commitment to godliness was all in vain.  Then, while worshiping, he realized the very prosperity of the wicked was “slippery ground,” for they felt no need of God and were vulnerable to judgment.  Suddenly Asaph felt foolish – and relieved.  He had God, now and forever.  And having God as his portion far outweighs a carefree life.

Psalm 73 is a psalm of trust.  The psalm is unusual in that it tells a story about the psalmist’s struggle with envy, doubts, and his faith in God.  But through his struggles, the psalmist Asaph learned to trust in God.

73:1-3 In the opening verses Asaph describes the crisis of faith he experienced. He begins with one of the basic elements of biblical theology, that God is good to Israel.  But then he confesses that he almost stumbled when he became envious of the success and wealth of the wicked.

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.

73:4-12 Lifestyles of the rich and famous.  His initial look describes their material situation, but then goes on to sketch its impact on their personality.  Those who have it all tend to become arrogant.  They sense no need for God and no need to be considerate of others.

73:5, 6 Asaph observes that the attitudes and actions of the wicked seem to place no constrains upon them.  They appear not to have trouble.  Their pride and violence are not hidden but are displayed like jewelry.  They fulfill their lustful appetites and boast about their wicked accomplishments.

5  They are not in trouble as other men, Nor are they plagued like other men. 6  Therefore pride serves as their necklace; Violence covers them like a garment.

73:12 Asaph describes the apathy about God characteristic of the wicked, who had concluded that God – if there was a God – was disengaged from people’s lives.  Asaph is bothered by the fact that with this aberrant view of life the wicked are still able to enjoy life, drink their fill, and live at ease.  Thus the psalmist feels that his own acts of righteous living are without meaning or purpose.

12  Behold, these are the ungodly, Who are always at ease; They increase in riches

73:15-17 untrue:  Asaph realizes that if he continued on this path, he would be abandoning the faith.  He finds the issue painful to consider until he comes to a new sense of enlightenment in the sanctuary, the temple in Jerusalem.  He rediscovered something he probably knew but had not really considered:  The prosperity of the wicked will not last.  Their wealth will have no value in the next life.  “Final destiny.”  Everything that happens to us on Earth must be evaluated in terms of its impact on our final destiny.

15  If I had said, “I will speak thus,” Behold, I would have been untrue to the generation of Your children. 16  When I thought how to understand this, It was too painful for me– 17  Until I went into the sanctuary of God; Then I understood their end.

73:19 Asaph remembers that the wicked are just a step away from disaster.  In a moment they could find all of their wealth valueless and their pleasure vanished as they face and eternity separated from the presence of their Creator.

19  Oh, how they are brought to desolation, as in a moment! They are utterly consumed with terrors.

73:21-24 Asaph was grieved because of his won lapse of faith.  In the manner of a wisdom psalm, he speaks of his own foolishness, like a beast:  An animal has no sense of eternity and a divine perspective.  The poet was making an animal-like decision when he began to wonder about the wicked.  But God had never left him, even when he struggled with doubts.  And afterward:  What helped the psalmist gain a proper perspective on this life was the afterlife.  The righteous will have the glorious privilege of living with God forever.

21  Thus my heart was grieved, And I was vexed in my mind. 22  I was so foolish and ignorant; I was like a beast before You23  Nevertheless I am continually with You; You hold me by my right hand. 24  You will guide me with Your counsel, And afterward receive me to glory.

73:27, 28 The contrast between the words shall perish and draw near to God explains the heart of the psalm.  There are those who may enjoy great wealth and notoriety today, but nothing they have or do will last forever.  Therefore, Asaph concludes he has put his trust in the Lord God.  Only those who place their trust in God will find eternal life and eternal peace.

27  For indeed, those who are far from You shall perish; You have destroyed all those who desert You for harlotry. 28  But it is good for me to draw near to God; I have put my trust in the Lord God, That I may declare all Your works.

** Considering the way things are happening now, even the rich and comfortable may lose their wealth when the collapse of dollar occurs.  It’s good to read this psalm and learn not to trust in what we possess before we all become poor.


The Fate of the Wicked

731 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. 4 For there are no pangs in their death, But their strength is firm. 5 They are not in trouble as other men, Nor are they plagued like other men. 6 Therefore pride serves as their necklace; Violence covers them like a garment. 7 Their eyes bulge with abundance; They have more than heart could wish. 8 They scoff and speak wickedly concerning oppression; They speak loftily. 9 They set their mouth against the heavens, And their tongue walks through the earth. 10 Therefore his people return here, And waters of a full cup are drained by them. 11 And they say, “How does God know? And is there knowledge in the Most High?” 12 Behold, these are the ungodly, Who are always at ease; They increase in riches. 13 Surely I have cleansed my heart in vain, And washed my hands in innocence. 14 For all day long I have been plagued, And chastened every morning. 15 If I had said, “I will speak thus,” Behold, I would have been untrue to the generation of Your children. 16 When I thought how to understand this, It was too painful for me– 17 Until I went into the sanctuary of God; Then I understood their end. 18 Surely You set them in slippery places; You cast them down to destruction. 19 Oh, how they are brought to desolation, as in a moment! They are utterly consumed with terrors. 20 As a dream when one awakes, So, Lord, when You awake, You shall despise their image.

21 Thus my heart was grieved, And I was vexed in my mind. 22 I was so foolish and ignorant; I was like a beast before You. 23 Nevertheless I am continually with You; You hold me by my right hand. 24 You will guide me with Your counsel, And afterward receive me to glory. 25 Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You. 26 My flesh and my heart fail; But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. 27 For indeed, those who are far from You shall perish; You have destroyed all those who desert You for harlotry. 28 But it is good for me to draw near to God; I have put my trust in the Lord God, That I may declare all Your works.

Really

 

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