From Protest to Praise - Psalm 73 (Part 4)

Praise – The Triumph of Faith (vs 16-28)

The Worship Perspective of the Unrighteous (vs 16-20)
In verse 16 we see a dramatic change of heart and mind. Asaph moves from protest to praise. What changed his outlook? The answer, I believe, can be summed up in one word—worship: “When I tried to understand all this it was oppressive to me till I entered the sanctuary of God; Then I understood their final destiny” (vs. 16‑17). In the first 14 verses, God is hardly mentioned except on the mouths of the wicked. But, God now becomes the central theme of the Psalm. Rather than saying “they and them”, “you” (God) is the focus. When we fix our eyes on Him who is “altogether lovely” in worship, we too move from protest to praise.

John MacArthur says that worship is “the ultimate priority”, and he is right. Piper says, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him” – that’s worship! We are completely content in God alone. Not in homes, and cars, and clothes, and stocks, and money, and things, but in HIM!!

Asaph had concluded that the wicked prospered and the righteous suffered, but this was a decision too hastily made. His conclusion had been reached on the basis of observations which were superficial. The fate of the wicked was viewed from a temporal perspective, not an eternal one. Asaph’s reasoning was based on human thinking, not on faith. While the wicked do prosper, their ulti­mate destiny is now viewed through the eyes of faith in accordance with the promises of God given in the Scriptures. The destiny of the wicked, rather than their immediate prosperity, should serve as a cure for the envy we sometimes have in our heart toward the lost. While one might be tempted to envy the present ease of life in which they lived, who would possibly desire to share in their future? Worship causes us to view life from an eternal perspective rather than merely an earthly one. In a moment – a flash – life can be over. The lost indeed are walking a slippery slope and their prosperity can turn to peril. In one heartbeat they are “destroyed, completely swept away by terrors!”

The Worship Perspective of the Self-righteous (vs 21-22)
There was a time when Asaph thought he was deserving of better from God. That is the theme of the first half of this Psalm. Underlying Asaph’s protest in verses 1‑14 was a faulty assumption—that while the wealthy were wicked, he was righteous. Only a man who thought himself righteous could reason: “Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure; In vain have I washed my hands in innocence” (v. 13).

I wonder how often we think that we deserve better. God is just not being fair! And yet the irony is that if God were to treat us fairly, “how suddenly {would we be} destroyed, completely swept away by terrors!” Before he went to God in worship, Asaph viewed himself as distinct from others whom he saw as more wicked than himself. We too make this mistake. It is second nature for sinful man to compare himself with another sinful man and think, “I’m not as bad as that guy”. But when we’re forced to view ourselves in comparison with God, not wicked men, we are broken – no better than a “brute beast.”

The Secret Blessing – Faith Triumphs in Affliction (vs 23-26)
Asaph’s struggle was grounded in the “fact” that affliction is inapplicable to the “righteous”. That is the way that our bent minds tend to think isn’t it? “If the consequence of sin is judgment and suffering, then how could adversity possibly have a beneficial effect in the life of the saint?” The success of sinners and the suffering of saints was a problem too great for the mind of the psalmist to grasp, and far too often for us as well; but when he worshipped God, Asaph came to understand the blessing adversity had been in his life. On the other hand he was able to see that affluence had been detrimental to the wicked.

When we draw close to God in worship, we are awoken to the fact that our suffering has in fact has drawn God close to us and we see that He is faithful. And, we with Asaph are able to say with confidence “Whom have I in Heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.” Suffering in some way, shape, or form will be our portion in life—our “flesh and {our} heart may fail” — nevertheless, God will be sufficient for our every need (v. 26), and He will be our portion in eternity. Worship should remind us of yet another important truth. God has never promised to keep His people from suffering, but He has promised to be with His people in suffering.