From Protest to Praise - Psalm 73 (Part 3)

The Sinners “Success” (Vs 4-12)
Verses 4 and 5 describe the prosperity, the “shalom,” of the wicked mentioned in verse 3. His definition of “shalom” here is one that is almost entirely materialistic. While the wicked are not exempt from death, even that appears to be relatively free from struggle and pain. In general, the wealthy wicked seem to live above the trials of life, which are nevertheless the plight of the righteous (v. 5). In short, the wicked are experiencing the kind of “shalom” which Asaph believed should be experienced only by the righteous.

The psalmist is not condemning prosperity, but rather protesting God’s choice of who should prosper. The Old Testament frequently promised prosperity to the pious (cf. Deut. 28:1‑14). It also warned of divine judgment (cursing) when God’s law was ignored (cf. Deut. 28:15‑68). On the basis of these promises, the psalmist expected that he should have been one of those described in verses 4 and 5, rather than the wicked. Here is where we often fail as Asaph did. First, in response to our own suffering, we cry, “Why me, Lord?” Second, in response to the prosperity of the wicked, we complained, “Why them?” So often we like Asaph have nothing against owning a Rolls Royce; it’s just that we want to be the one in the driver’s seat rather than his ungodly neighbour.

If that wasn’t bad enough, verses 6-9 add to Asaph’s distress because of the blatant pride and arrogance of the wicked. Then, as now, the mentality was, “if you’ve got it, flaunt it” or “he who dies with the most toys wins.” One could really begin to think that maybe I can have my “best life now”. The pride of the wicked was not merely reflected in their attitudes and actions toward men. The wicked became so bold that they openly mock God and elevate themselves to god‑like levels (v. 9; cf. Isa. 14:13‑14).

Verse 12 summarizes the complaint of Asaph concerning the wicked: they were carefree and they continued to prosper, even in their wickedness. In short, they enticed others to follow them and their evil example, and yet their lives were seemingly blessed with financial prosperity and physical well‑being, a fact, which seemed contradictory to the covenant God had made with Israel.

The Secret Sin – Faith Dies in Affluence (vs 13-15)
Verses 13 and 14 give the conclusion toward which the evidence led. If God is not blessing the righteous and cursing the wicked, the very thing promised in the Old Testament Law (Deut. 27–28), then what was the good of being righteous? Righteousness seemingly was not rewarded but punished. Faith certainly appeared to be vain. It looked contradictory to both God’s word and common sense.

I wonder how many of us have ever had the same thought; our own unspoken charge against God – our own little secret sin. We say a hearty AMEN to verse 1, but if we honest, we spend far too much time in the closet of verses 13 and 14. It is exactly the presupposition of Satan:

“Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face” (Job 1:9‑11).

When we spend too much time in that place, the consequences can be deadly. Not only to ourselves, but others as well (vs 15). Our actions have a profound impact on others. This reminds me of last Sunday night. Pastor Jim did a masterful job of showing that his complaining about the car in front of him – that had “more than enough time to make that turn but didn’t” – causing him to wait for what seemed like an eternity at “another” red light – forcing him to say like Calvin: “I see no reason for this!” – was in fact a serious heart issue to God. We have all been there...haven’t we? Sure we have, if not, you may very well be a pathological liar...get help NOW!! Seriously though, I cannot think of one person who hasn’t experienced what would have to be defined as “justifiable road rage”.

I mean, I know he is right in saying that it’s wrong but honestly...That is honestly what I was thinking – “I know he is right in saying that it’s wrong but honestly...” And right at that point, and I mean exactly then, Meaghan taps me on the shoulder and says, “Daddy, you’ve done that before.” She had that look; the one that says, “I’ve been listening to what’s been said, and I know it’s wrong to do what’s been said, but you’ve done what’s been said, so is it really wrong?” I know – I hate that look too!!! The excuses died immediately. Not only was it wrong, but it had been noticed (many times, I might add) by my children. Could I have been teaching them that some sins are not that bad? That is exactly what I was doing. Just when my self righteousness was rearing its ugly head, I was rebuked by a 6 year old!