Love in the Truth.
Asaph comes full circle to God’s goodness. Not only is God good, but it is good for me to be near God. He is the Sovereign Lord who orders my steps, wherever He leads, I will follow. As Piper says, “God is most glorified in me when I am most satisfied in Him.” When others see this fact lived out – especially in suffering – that is a powerful testimony. In the darkest of times, the child of God knows a joy, a comfort, and peace that the natural man cannot know. Beloved, we have a great and glorious Saviour who, when we come to Him in worship turns our protest into praise. When genuine faith is tested it always triumphs. When faith triumphs it testifies to the world, “God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”
I think we have all heard about the tragic death of Emily Joy Stauffer by now. If you haven’t – Emily was the 14-year-old daughter of Pastor Terry Stauffer and his wife Juanita, from a fellowship church in Edson, Alberta. On, Saturday, September 27, she was attacked and murdered while taking a walk in the afternoon. I don’t really know Terry at all except through his blog and a couple of emails. He posted this on Wednesday last week:
What story are you telling the world in the midst of trials – protest or praise?
Love in the Truth.
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!!
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).
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.
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!
Faith Affirmed (vs1)
The faith of the saints has always been rooted in the firm conviction of God’s existence and the assurance that He rewards those who diligently seek Him (Heb. 11:6). In one sense, verse 1 is the conclusion of the matter. Asaph believed that God existed, that He was good, and that He was sovereign. In another sense, however, this verse was the basis of the psalmist’s problem. If God exists, and He is good so as to reward the righteous, and He is all?powerful, totally in control of His creation, then why is it that in God’s world the wicked seem to be doing better than the righteous? How can God be good to the pure in heart if observation convinces us that sinners succeed and saints suffer?
Two Problems (vs 2-3)
The first problem (vs 2 and 3a) is his personal spiritual turmoil. Asaph’s confession is crucial because it is intended to qualify his description of the wicked which follows. Everything the psalmist saw, and over which he agonized, was tainted by his own sinful attitude of envy. Asaph was consumed with greed, not grief. Asaph was not distressed so much by the sin of the successful as he was by the success of the sinful. We can easily deceive ourselves by becoming distraught over the wrong things. This is why we are instructed, “Do not fret because of evil men. Or be envious of those who do wrong” (Ps. 37:1).
The second problem which troubled Asaph was the “prosperity” of the wicked (v. 3b). It is important to understand the word “prosperity” used here. It is the Hebrew word “shalom”. The root meaning of shalom was “completion” or “fulfillment.” It implied wholeness and harmony, and to the Israelite, shalom summarized in one word the benefits or blessings that were promised in God’s covenant with Israel. As seen from the perspective of the Old Testament saint, we can understand why Asaph would have been perplexed by the prosperity of the wicked. From his point of view the covenant blessings of God were being poured out on the wicked. As he saw it, sinners were being blessed and saints cursed. It was as though God had turned His covenant upside-down.
Will continue with this next week...
Love in the Truth
From Protest To Praise – Psalm 73
Intro: The Fundamental Question
1. Protest – The Testing of Faith (vs 1-15)
A. Faith Affirmed (vs1)
B. Two Problems (vs2-3)
C. The Sinners “Success” (vs 4-12)
D. The Secret Sin – Faith Dies in Affluence (vs 13-15)
2. Praise – The Triumph of Faith (vs 16-26)
A. The Worship Perspective of the Unrighteous (vs 16-20)
B. The Worship Perspective of the Self-Righteous (vs 21-22)
C. The Secret Blessing – Faith Triumphs in Affliction (vs 23-26)
3. People – The Testimony of Faith (vs 27-28)
A. Full Circle
B. “Carried” – What Story Are You Telling?
So, here are my thoughts:
Intro: The Fundamental Question
The fundamental question underlying Psalm 73 is, “How can a good God allow the righteous to suffer?” This question has puzzled saints and pleased skeptics over the centuries. This psalm and the question with which it deals is extremely important to us, both for the purpose of apologetics (defending our faith) and in order to preserve our faith in the midst of life’s trials. Many Christians today seem to think that faith in God comes with a guarantee of freedom from adversity. In fact, too many of our evangelistic appeals are tainted with the false promise (implied or stated) that coming to faith in Christ will deliver men from their trials in life. When young Christians come to the realization that this is not so, their faith is sometimes severely shaken.
The question, “How can a good God allow the righteous to suffer?” reveals at least fallacies in our thinking. The first is the assumption that suffering is always evil and therefore irreconcilable with God’s goodness. The second is a failure to understand righteousness, so far as it relates to the saint, the true child of God. In answer to the problem of pain, this psalm forces us to take another look at our definition of good, lest we accuse God of being the author of evil by allowing us to suffer.
“We may indicate the distinctive nature of the solution offered in this psalm by noting that it penetrates deeper than does any other that has ever been attempted on the Old Testament level. It mounts to the very presence of God, holds close to Him, and then views the situation from that vantage point.” H. C. Leupold, Exposition of Psalms (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House [reprint], 1969), p. 523.
Next time we'll get into the text!
Love in the Truth
However, the time together with Jennifer - just the two of us - for the weekend is really what I'm looking forward too. I truly am blessed beyond measure in having her as my wife. Grandma and Grandpa are in town to look after the kids - woohoo! So, not only will we get to sit under some great teaching, but we'll have a weekend getaway as well!! God is good!