Thursday, August 25, 2011

Psalm 73 - God is the strength of my Heart - Pete's Bible Commentary

Psalm 73 - Pete's Bible Commentary

Psalm 73:1 A psalm of Asaph. Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.

Psalm 73:2 But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold.

Psalm 73:3 For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

Psalm 73:4 They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong.

Psalm 73:5 They are free from common human burdens; they are not plagued by human ills.

Psalm 73:6 Therefore pride is their necklace; they clothe themselves with violence.

Psalm 73:7 From their callous hearts comes iniquity; their evil imaginations have no limits.

Psalm 73:8 They scoff, and speak with malice; with arrogance they threaten oppression.

Psalm 73:9 Their mouths lay claim to heaven, and their tongues take possession of the earth.

Psalm 73:10 Therefore their people turn to them and drink up waters in abundance.

Psalm 73:11 They say, "How would God know? Does the Most High know anything?"

Psalm 73:12 This is what the wicked are like-- always free of care, they go on amassing wealth.

Psalm 73:13 Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure and have washed my hands in innocence.

Psalm 73:14 All day long I have been afflicted, and every morning brings new punishments.

Psalm 73:15 If I had spoken out like that, I would have betrayed your children.

Psalm 73:16 When I tried to understand all this, it troubled me deeply

Psalm 73:17 till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny.
Psalm 73 captures me as it gets to verse 17. Before we unpack that a little, it is interesting to note that this Psalm is the first of the Asaph collection of Psalms (Psalms 73-83). Asaph is a musician, whom King David had appointed for work within the Sanctuary, including two other men, Heman (that's right, He-man!) and Ethan. When the temple of Solomon was completed, bringing the ark and altar together, these three musicians were reunited to serve in the Sanctuary.Wilcock writes, 'The God of the Asaph Collection is repeatedly a God who judges, as he did in Egypt; who speaks, as he did at Sinai; and who over the years constantly shepherds his people' (2001: 6).

Lets look at the first half of Psalm 73. We see Asaph saying his foot nearly slipped; he nearly found himself living the 'wicked' kind of life that the people in his culture were living. Interestingly, Psalm 73:12 says these people were living 'care-free' lives. Immediately my mind considers the people of our culture today, that like healthy, strong, care-free lives, with no need for a God who cares for them and no need for any kind of salvation.

I am captured then by verses 16 and 17, that when I tried to understand all this wickedness, I was troubled. I couldn't understand why people were living this way, and I couldn't understand the reason for their disobedient ways. It was not until I entered the Sanctuary (v. 17), that it became clear to me. What became clear to me, was that I understood their final destiny. All of sudden, after being in the Sanctuary, I had revelation as the result of wickedness and disobedience. We see this today, that people who enter the Sanctuary or rather people who gather together in the presence of God, have greater clarity and understanding of the effects of sin on people's lives. Personally, when I connect deeply with Jesus in a time of worship/prayer, I am at times confounded by my own need of redemption or I am given a clearer picture of the heartache God has for those who are far from him.
Psalm 73:18 Surely you place them on slippery ground; you cast them down to ruin.

Psalm 73:19 How suddenly are they destroyed, completely swept away by terrors!

Psalm 73:20 They are like a dream when one awakes; when you arise, Lord, you will despise them as fantasies.

Psalm 73:21 When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered,

Psalm 73:22 I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you.

Psalm 73:23 Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand.

Psalm 73:24 You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory.

Psalm 73:25 Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.

Psalm 73:26 My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

Psalm 73:27 Those who are far from you will perish; you destroy all who are unfaithful to you.

Psalm 73:28 But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign LORD my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds.
What promises Asaph gives his readers! That even though at times our foot slips, and our flesh and heart fail (v. 26), God is still our strength and God is always with us. What a promise! Even though at times we envy the care-free life of the people around us, who live according to their own humanistic moral standards, we desire after God more. We long to always have God at the forefront of our minds. We long to say, 'God, be my portion and my strength!'

Finally, I'm captured by the last verse of Psalm 73 (v. 28). Even after Asaph considers the sinfulness of the people around him, and then concludes that he will always be with God and desire after God, he says, 'I will tell of all your deeds'.

God help us not to envy the people around us, who live these seemingly joyful and abundant lives, with not a care in the world. God help us to not let our foot slip into that consumeristic, hedonistic kind of life. We enter the Sanctuary many times, and you speak to us and remind us that you love us, and that you are with us. By your Holy Spirit will you also reveal to us the importance of living a holy and pure life before you. Break our heart for the oppressive destiny that so many people have for their lives. Help us and equip us to tell of your deeds, all the days of our lives.

We believe Christ came many years after these words in Psalm 73, and we will tell of the salvation, goodness, forgiveness and hope that he can bring into the lives of people in our community. 

This is another reflection on the Word of God written by Pete Brookshaw and is part of Pete's Bible Commentary.   

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