From Psalms 70-73
The desire for more and more wealth is common in this world. Some gain it by unjust means. The psalmist today opens up his heart and shares his struggles. He questions the value of living for God, when the wicked prosper. All this changes when he comes to the sanctuary of God.
This post is part of my bible in a year series.
Ps 70.1-5; Book Two; David; O LORD, Do Not Delay
Ps 71.1-24; Book Two; Unknown; Forsake Me Not When My Strength Is Spent
Ps 72.1-20; Book Two; David; Give the King Your Justice
Ps 73.1-28; Book Three; Asaph; God Is My Strength and Portion Forever
Passage and Comments
The psalmist lives in a place where the wicked prosper. He tries to live a good and righteous life but at times he questions the value of it. Especially when he sees the prosperity of the wicked.
1 Truly God is good to Israel, to those who 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 arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. (Ps 73:1–3)
The psalm starts recognising God is good to the faithful and pure in Israel. And he is. He saved them from captivity in Egypt. Gave them his law. Brought them into the promised land and now shows steadfast love over them.
He says ‘But as for me’. After saying this the psalmist distinguishes himself from the pure in heart. He gives an honest appraisal of himself and recognises he was green with envy. He wanted to prosper like the wicked.
Honest reflection is a really good way to grow and mature.
He then lists a variety of reasons why he was envious.
4 For they have no pangs until death; their bodies are fat and sleek.
5 They are not in trouble as others are; they are not stricken like the rest of mankind.
6 Therefore pride is their necklace; violence covers them as a garment.
7 Their eyes swell out through fatness; their hearts overflow with follies.
8 They scoff and speak with malice; loftily they threaten oppression.
9 They set their mouths against the heavens, and their tongue struts through the earth.
10 Therefore his people turn back to them, and find no fault in them.
11 And they say, “How can God know? Is there knowledge in the Most High?”
12 Behold, these are the wicked; always at ease, they increase in riches. (Ps 73:4–12)
They have easy lives. Other than pride, their main sins seem to be associated with what they say. They ‘scoff’ and ‘speak’. They ‘threaten’. They ‘set their mouths’, their ‘tongue struts’. They question God.
The apostle James says something about tongues out of control doesn’t he (Jas 3.1-12)?
They have easy lives. The psalmist condemns their behaviour, but envies their trouble free lives and riches.
How has the psalmist been living?
13 All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence.
14 For all the day long I have been stricken and rebuked every morning.
15 If I had said, “I will speak thus,” I would have betrayed the generation of your children. (Ps 73:13–15)
The psalmist complains ‘all in vain I’ and ‘all day long I’. He says he kept his heart and hands clean. He believes he is innocent.
Whats the point with striving to keep our hearts clean if there is no gain?
In the end he was trapped between two options. Either keep on living as he has and be stricken and rebuked. Or, living as the wicked do and setting a poor example for others. Betraying what is best for the generations around him.
All this changed. The LORD wouldn’t let him give in.
16 But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task,
17 until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end. (Ps 73:16–17)
He went into the sanctuary of God. He met with the LORD. The text doesn’t say he said anything. Perhaps he didn’t need to. He came into the LORD’s presence and his troubles became clear at that point.
If your swirled around by lifes troubles. Centre yourself in the LORD.
The wicked will not prosper. The LORD will set his world to rights.
18 Truly you set them in slippery places; you make them fall to ruin.
19 How they are destroyed in a moment, swept away utterly by terrors!
20 Like a dream when one awakes, O Lord, when you rouse yourself, you despise them as phantoms. (Ps 73:18–20)
When he went into the sanctuary he discerned their end. They may prosper and be wealthy now. But the LORD will eventually judge and punish them. The LORD will not allow evil to continue unchecked. He will put an end to it.
But the psalmist has been struggling with a problem within himself. For a time he seriously questioned the value of keeping his heart and hands clean. He recalls this time in his life.
21 When my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in heart,
22 I was brutish and ignorant; I was like a beast toward you.
23 Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand.
24 You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory.
25 Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (Ps 73:21-26)
The psalmist remembers when he was ‘embittered’, ‘brutish’, and ‘ignorant’. He compares himself to an animal. But, even in his struggles he recognises now the LORD was still with him.
How comforting it is to know the LORD will never abandon his people even when they are momentarily afflicted.
The LORD guides his people into glory. Nothing in the earth can compare with the LORD and knowing him. He is the psalmists one true desire.
27 For behold, those who are far from you shall perish; you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you.
28 But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, that I may tell of all your works. (Ps 73:27–28)
The psalmist explains a little more why he now thinks this is the fate of the wicked. The LORD is the source of life. Since they have little desire to draw near to him they will perish.
On the other hand the psalmist rejoices in his relationship with the LORD, his refuge. The psalmist has become a keen evangelist. He wants to share with others what the LORD has done.
Story of Israel
Ungodly people often make the possession of wealth a priority. Unfortunately Israel’s history is marked by some who abandoned the LORD for riches.
The ungodly may grow rich as we have seen in today’s psalm. In the Old Testament they often obtained their riches unjustly (Prov 10.2; 13.11; 21.6; 1 Ki 20.5; Jer 17.11). They trusted in their riches (Ps 49.5-6; Job 31.24; Prov 11.28). Like all people however, died and had to leave their riches to others (Ps 49.10; 39.6; Ecc 2.18-21).
All of these did not understand the true nature of wealth, and they do not realise that they will have to face God in judgment.
Story of Jesus
Jesus has equal concerns about the viability of putting more value in riches than in God.
19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, 23 but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!
24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. (Mt 6:19–24)
Jesus said this because he knew people at different times in their life desire wealth. Perhaps would stoop to gaining it unjustly. The cure for desiring wealth is very much what we have read in the psalm. Seek out the sanctuary of God and spend time with Him.
Copyright © Joshua Washington and thescripturesays, 2015. All Rights Reserved.