Psalm 73 deals with issues that are as old as mankind. It is the same problem that vexed David in Psalm 37. It is the same problem that worried the anonymous author of Psalm 49.
The problem that bothered those men is the same problem that bothers all of us. It is the puzzle surrounding the issue of why the wicked in our world seem to prosper while the people of God seem to suffer.
This is a problem that has afflicted the people of God since the dawn of time, and it still perplexes us today. Why do the wicked seem to do so well, while the people of God seem to hurt so bad? Obviously, both the righteous and the wicked suffering this world. By the same token, both the righteous and the wicked prosper.
Here is what Jesus said about it: “… for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew 5:45) Yet, it does appear sometimes that, the people of God have a more difficult time in this world than the people who know God. That is a problem. Let me illustrate.
Consider the primary areas of life that we view as the measure of success and blessing in a person’s life.
Prosperity – The majority of the world’s wealth is held by people who do not know God. In fact, right now, Bill Gates is the world’s richest man. He has a net worth of over $60 billion. Bill Gates is an atheist.
On the other hand, most of us know Christians, people who love God, people who are saved by the grace of God, and who do not have the means to buy food, purchase medicine, or provide the other necessities of life.
That seems fair to us. Does it? Of course, we forget that most of the world’s poorest people are unbelievers too. It “rains on the just and the unjust”.
Asaph deals with this puzzling and confusing issue in Psalm 73 I want to walk with Asaph as he deals with this problem and watch him as he solves it for all of us.
On this journey, I want to examine the first three verses of this Psalm. In these verses, Asaph’s Problem Is Revealed. Notice three revelations Asaph makes in these verses that help us understand his problem. Understanding Asaph’s problem will also help us understand ours.
Psalm 73:1 WHAT ASAPH COMPREHENDED
What He Comprehended About God’s Person – Asaph opens this Psalm with a grand statement. He says, “Truly God is good to Israel.” The central word in that statement is the word “God”. That word identifies the Person to which Asaph refers. By calling God “God” Asaph acknowledges the truth that the God he serves is sovereign.
As Asaph moves through this Psalm he will reveal his personal struggles and doubts. He will tell us how he worked on those issues and came to the place where he could make the declaration that God is “God”.
I only mention this because there are times when we forget that God is “God”. We allow our attention to be captivated by the wrong things. Like Asaph, we focus on people, problems, and circumstances, and we forget who God is, and we forget who we are. Asaph makes a great statement in verse 1, but he wasn’t always in that place as the rest of this Psalm testifies.
Let me you tell a little about Asaph. He was no lightweight when it came to the things of God. Here are a few facts about Asaph that we need to know to understand his a little bit better.
Asaph was a Levite. He was from the family of Levi. The men of that family were set apart to serve the house of God.
Asaph was one of three chief musicians appointed by David to preside over the choral services of the sanctuary. In his position, Asaph would have led the singing, wrote songs, and composed music. He was the primary worship leader in the Tabernacle – 1 Chronicles 16:5.
Asaph was selected by the Levites to lead the music when David brought the Ark of the Covenant back to Jerusalem, 1 Chronicles 15:16-19.
The other two chief musicians Heman and Jeduthun led worship services in other parts of the nation. Asaph was selected to lead the Levitical choirs at the Tabernacle in its new home in Jerusalem, 1 Chronicles 16.
Asaph’s sons were entrusted with leading the 24 courses of musicians that served at the Tabernacle, and later, they participated at the dedication of the new Temple Solomon built in Jerusalem, 1 Chronicles 25:11:31.
Asaph was called a “seer”, or a prophet, as well as a singer, 2 Chronicles 29:30.
Asaph’s sons were influential sacred musicians for many years in Israel. They took part in revivals under Hezekiah, 2 Chronicles 29:13, Josiah, 2 Chronicles 35:15, and Zerubbabel, Ezra 2:41.
Asaph’s son also led the service of praise and thanksgiving when the foundation of the second temple was laid in Jerusalem, Ezra 3:10.
The point is, Asaph was a godly man who influenced his family, and the worship of Israel for many years.
What does this have to do with us? If a man like Asaph could wallow in the grip of doubt and fear over the puzzle of prosperity and pain, so can we. All I am saying is that sometimes we forget who God is. In the end, Asaph came back to where he needed to be. If we stay after God, so will we!
What He Comprehended About God’s Performance – Asaph reached a place in his walk with God where he could testify about God and say, “Truly God is good to Israel”. When I read Psalm 73:2-14, I am reading the words of a man who seems to doubt the goodness of God. He is a bad place. But, let’s be honest, we all been in that place too, haven’t we?
When we see the wicked prosper and the righteous suffer, there is a part of us that wonders where God is, and what He is doing. Like Asaph, we struggle with the puzzle of prosperity and pain, and like Asaph, we will come to the place where we remember that “God is good”. And, He is, isn’t He?
No matter what is happening in your life, it doesn’t change the fact that “God is good”. Think about how He has blessed you, in spite of your problems. Do you remember how He saved you? Stop a moment and walk back down the path of memory lane and remember what the Lord has done for you. Oh, He has been good to us!
When we get like Asaph, and we do, we tend to forget the blessings of the Lord. We put our eyes on the wrong things. We allow our minds to walk the wrong paths. We watch the wrong people. We see the wicked prosper and we see the righteous suffer, and it hurts us and causes us to wander off course. But, if we will stop to think if we will stop to remember, if we will stop to inventory the blessings God has given to us, we will come back to the place Asaph came to. We will say, “Truly, the Lord is good!”
What He Comprehended About God’s People – Asaph says, “Truly God is good to Israel, even to such as are of a clean heart.” As Asaph looked around him, we saw the wicked and their prosperity.
He saw their power, their happiness, their pride, their blaspheme, and all the other evidence that said the wicked were doing better than the righteous.
All the evidence said that serving God did not pay off. The evidence said a life of sin is where a person finds peace, happiness, blessing, and joy, while holiness leads to problems, sorrow, and pain.
But, after careful consideration, Asaph reached the place where he understood the truth about God, holiness, and evil. He came to understand that when this life was over, the wicked were going to perish, verses 16-20.
When they died, they were going to Hell. Their joy, their prosperity, their peace, their success, their power, etc.; it was all going to vanish away into vapor. They would pass from this life to face the judgment of God and nothing could deliver them from that fate.
On the other hand, the righteous, those who possess “clean hearts”, will leave this world of pain, sorrow, sin, death, unfairness, and death, to go into the presence of the Lord in His Heaven. While the wicked prosper here, and the righteous suffer, death is the great leveler.
The proud will be brought low that day, while the lowly will be elevated. Those who know God will be delivered from their affliction and they will go to a better world. They will go to a world of peace, joy, and blessing. That is the promise we enjoy.
“For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better:” (Philippians 1:23) “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)
Conclusion: If we were honest, we would all have to admit that we struggle with these issues just like Asaph did. Their question is, where are we today? Let’s come before Him, regardless of where we are in our walk with Him, and talk to Him about the burdens, or the blessings of our souls.