UNJUST! NOT FAIR! HOW CAN HE GET AWAY WITH THAT! WHY CAN’T THAT BE ME? WHY DOES SHE HAVE ALL THE LUCK? IT JUST DOESN’T MAKE SENSE!
I am sure that to one degree or another, each one of us has struggled with the injustices we see in life or maybe even have experienced ourselves. In fact, these perplexities in life have baffled the greatest thinkers throughout human history; and it is no different today. We are still confronted with perplexities in life that we cannot reasonably explain.
In the book of Psalms, we find that one of the psalmists wrestled with this same dilemma. In Psalm 73, Asaph struggled to understand how God could let such injustices take place in this world. He could not comprehend how those who ignore God seemed to generally do well, while those who sought to honor God faced real difficulties in life. For Asaph, it didn’t seem to make any sense. It didn’t seem to be fair.
Asaph was a member of the tribe of Levi and was appointed by David to lead the tribes of Israel in the worship of the Lord (I Chronicles 16:4-7). Psalm 73 was written by Asaph as a Wisdom Psalm to provide the people of God with the proper outlook in life, especially when one struggles with the difficulties or problems that do not make sense. In this psalm, Asaph
expressed his own mental struggle as he tried to understand the seeming injustices in life. He was particularly bothered by the fact that those who denied God seemed to fare so well while those who sought to do what pleased God faced repeated hardship and difficulties.
Thankfully, the insight he gained has been preserved for us today in Psalm 73. This psalm of Asaph has three sections to it:
The Perplexity of Asaph Psalm 73:1-14
The Persuasion of Asaph Psalm 73:15-24 The Perspective of Asaph Psalm 73:25-28
So, let’s look together at this Wisdom Psalm that we may gain the proper outlook in life, especially when we see things in this world that are unsettling to us.
Asaph began stating his perplexity with a contrast between what he knew to be true and what he perceived through his experience and observations. As he stated in verse 1, he was convinced that God is faithful to His covenant promises and fulfills them to his people. Surely, God is good to Israel, To those who are pure in heart! The Hebrew term translated “surely” is a statement of affirmation. It means it is something that is true and we can count on it. Asaph is stating that God does what is good and only
what is good or beneficial for Israel. The Lord had graciously entered into a covenant relationship with the nation of Israel that set it apart from all the other nations of the earth. This covenant or contract with the nation was based upon the unconditional promises that God had made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (whose name God changed to Israel).
In fulfillment of the promise that God made to Abraham, the Lord brought Israel out of Egypt and established it has a nation under His rule. Israel was constituted as a Theocracy and given the Mosaic Law as its constitution. In the Mosaic Covenant, the Lord promised that He would bless them for their obedience to His Law and He would punish or discipline them for their disobedience. Asaph affirmed that God is faithful to His promises to the
nation of Israel and that He would bless those of the nation “who are pure in heart.” These individuals who are described as the pure in heart are those who are steadfast in their devotion to the Lord, genuine in their worship of Him and obedient to His instruction.
These are not the ones who vacillate between serving the Lord God and or serving false gods of the other nations. The phrase “pure in heart” does not indicate that these individuals were sinless; rather it means they were characterized by their unwavering devotion to the Lord. They were not hypocrites who said one thing but lived differently. These individuals were not the ones in the nation of Israel of whom the Lord said: “This
people honors Me with their lips but their hearts are far from me” (Isaiah 29:13).
But while Asaph understood that God’s blessings were for those in the nation of Israel who remained faithful to the Lord, he struggled with how to reconcile this truth with what he saw in life.
But as for me, my feet came close to stumbling;
My steps had almost slipped.
Asaph was being very transparent. He acknowledged that he struggled with this dilemma to such an extent that he thought maybe he was mistaken in remaining faithful to the Lord. He thought that his efforts to walk faithfully with the Lord were an empty pursuit (Ps. 73:13). After all, those who disregarded God seemed to be doing very well in this world, and in particular, in the Theocracy of Israel where the Lord had said that He would bless those who walked faithfully with Him (Psalm 73:2-9).
For I was envious of the arrogant,
As I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
Fort there are no pains in their death;
And their body is fat.
They are not in trouble as other men;
Nor are they plagued like mankind.
Therefore pride is their necklace;
The garment of violence covers them.
Their eye bulges from fatness;
The imaginations of their heart run riot.
They mock and wickedly speak of oppression;
They speak from on high.
They have set their mouth against the heavens,
And their tongue parades through the earth.
Envy and confusion had gripped the heart of Asaph. He saw the prosperity and well being of the wicked and was jealous of what they had. These individuals (Biblically classified as wicked) are those who are not faithful to the Lord. Yet, these same individuals were enjoying “the good life”. They were not in any need and acquired whatever they desired (the imaginations of their heart run riot). They were in comfort throughout their lives. So
spoiled were these individuals, that they boasted in their status (pride is their necklace) and characteristically crushed anyone who opposed them (their garment is violence). They were the ones who mocked and ridiculed God as well as the people of God. Sadly, others envied them too and wanted what they had. As others saw the wicked prospering and enjoying the good life, they desired to have “it all” as well. They drank down this way of living as if they just couldn’t get enough of it.
Therefore, his people return to this place,
And waters of abundance are drunk by them.
And they say, ‘How does God know?’
‘And is there knowledge with the Most High?’
Behold, these are the wicked;
And always at ease, they have increased in wealth.
Surely, in vain I have kept my heart pure,
And washed my hands in innocence;
For I have been stricken all day long,
And chastened every morning.
In contrast, Asaph had not enjoyed the “good life” as was true of those who spurned the Lord. In fact, he had come to the place in his thinking that he began to question whether or not there was any benefit in following the Lord and remaining faithful to him. Instead of the ease and comfort that he saw the wicked enjoy, his life had been characterized by daily
difficulties and discipline from the Lord. Yet while Asaph wrestled with this paradox, the Lord graciously provided him with the correct persuasion and insight on how to look at these apparent contradictions and dilemmas in life (Ps. 73:15-24).
If I had said, ‘I will speak thus;’
Behold, I should have betrayed the generation of Your children.
When I pondered to understand this,
It was troublesome in my sight,
Until I came into the sanctuary of God;
Then I perceived their end.
Surely You set them in slippery places;
You cast them down to destruction.
How they are destroyed in a moment!
They are utterly swept away by sudden terror!
Like a dream when one awakes,
O Lord, when aroused, You will despise their form.
When my heart was embittered,
And I was pierced within,
Then I was senseless and ignorant;
I was like a beast before You.
Nevertheless, I am continually with You;
You have taken hold of my right hand.
With Your counsel, You will guide me,
And afterward receive me to glory.
One can begin to appreciate the depth of emotional turmoil experienced by the psalmist as he grappled with this issue. He said that as he tried to comprehend how the wicked could seem to fare so well while those sought to follow the Lord faced afflictions in life, it brought him bitterness and inward pain. Yet he now recognized that the reason he was so
distraught and upset was due to the fact that he was evaluating the situation from the wrong viewpoint. He was only looking at the problem from a temporal standpoint, thinking no differently than a senseless animal. See what he stated: If you evaluate things based on
what is happening to you at the moment, you are no better than your pet who has no comprehension of things beyond the immediate. You’re living and acting like an ignorant animal.
Thankfully, during his personal struggles, Asaph did not express his inward turmoil to the people of God. Like a good leader, he wrestled with the issue between God and himself. It was only after he had gained the proper solution to his misperception, that he shared his thoughts and experience with those under his leadership and influence. As is true with so
many of the dilemmas and paradoxes that we face in life, Asaph had mistakenly started with man and what was happening to him rather than starting from God in order to better grasp what was occurring in men’s lives. The dilemma for Asaph was resolved when he recognized that man, the creature, is accountable to God, his Creator.
Regardless of whether or not an individual acknowledges the existence of God and eternity, we are each still accountable to God. Rather than being envious of the wicked and their prosperity in this world, he now expressed his pity for them. God has “set them in slippery places” and “they are destroyed in a moment!” In other words, when they pass out of this life into
eternity they will have absolutely nothing. As they focus on the things of this world and enjoying the “good life”; they never give thought to what is really most important. They may have comfort and ease in this life; but for all eternity their existence will be void of any comfort, mercy or ease.
Jesus made this same point very clear in the account He gave concerning the death of the rich man and Lazarus (See Luke 16:14-31). No matter how much a man may have in this world, if he does not have a relationship with the Lord through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, he still has nothing. In contrast, no matter how little one may have of the things of this world, if he is a child of God through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, he has everything.
This very truth is what prompted one of the puritans to say: “Do not envy the wealth and prosperity of the ungodly any more than you would envy the flowers draping the coffin of a corpse.” Yes, the wealth and prosperity of the wicked will be gone when they die just like what remains of a dream when one awakes. It all vanishes in a moment.
In contrast to what awaits those who disregard God and have no relationship with Him, Asaph came to recognize the rich blessings that were his as a child of God. Even though he wavered in his faith, God is the One who still remained faithful to him. He was still “continually with the Lord” and upheld by God Himself. God is the One who took “hold of his right hand” and preserved him. The Lord is the One who guides and directs His people as they go through life. But His care does not only extend to the things in this life. He is also the One who preserves His people and ultimately brings them into His presence in glory. Hallelujah! What a Savior!
In the final 4 verses of this psalm, Asaph expressed the perspective on life he had gained. This is the wisdom that he recognized not only as most important for him as he lived in this world; but also the perspective that is beneficial for all of God’s people.
Whom have I in heaven, but You?
And besides You, I desire nothing on earth.
My flesh and heart may fail;
But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
For, behold those who are far from You will perish;
You have destroyed all those who are unfaithful to You.
But as for me, the nearness of God is my good;
I have made the Lord God my refuge,
That I may tell of all Your works.
When one comes to understand how brief our temporal existence is in comparison with the never ending existence of eternity, he begins to see things in their proper perspective. My eternal well being is far more important than my temporal situation in this world. What really matters most for any one of us is whether or not God is the portion of my life. The
Lord is the One who is the strength or literally, the rock of those who trust in Him. He alone is the unwavering foundation in the midst of all the changes we face in life. Those who ignore Him or disregard Him, will have nothing in eternity after death. But those who have made Him the focus and center of their lives, will have blessings and riches unending.
As the child of God goes through the difficulties and problems of life, he will always find that the nearness of God is his utmost good. Asaph stated that God Himself was the desire of his heart and therefore found true fulfillment in Him. He said that he found his security and place of safety in the Lord God Himself. While our translation reads “I have made the Lord God my refuge”; Asaph actually said he had made Adonai Yahweh (not God –
Elohim) his refuge. In other words, Asaph affirmed that the Lord (Adonai – The Sovereign Ruler), LORD (Yahweh – The Personal God who has covenant relationship with His people as the great I AM), is the One who watches over and protects him. The living God is the Rock and Refuge of His people. He is the ever present help for them in any time of trouble (Psalm 46:1).
So from this psalm, we have learned some very important truths that are pertinent for each one of us. First, if you do not have a relationship with Him, regardless of how much of this world’s riches you may possess; you still have nothing and will experience that empty reality for all eternity. But, if like Asaph, you have a relationship with Him, regardless of how little you may have of this world’s riches, you have everything. Truly, God Himself is
the strength or rock of His people in this life and He is the One who will bring them safely into His presence forevermore. Without a doubt, He is the greatest treasure anyone can have in this world. He is the One to be desired more than anything else this world can offer.
Second, each one of us will struggle to understand the paradoxes and dilemmas we see and experience in this world. And while we will not fully comprehend all the details of what seems to be so unfair or doesn’t make sense to us; we can learn from the inward wrestling of Asaph. We need to be sure we are not nearsighted in our outlook on life; but rather
understand that it really “isn’t that one who dies with the most toys that wins”. Instead, the real winner and victor in this life is the one who looks at things from an eternal perspective.
Asaph began this psalm by stating: “But as for me, I wavered in my walk with the Lord”; but he ended it with the affirmation: “But as for me, the nearness of God is my good”. In reality, the one who has everything is the one who gains something far greater than all the riches that the world can offer. He is the one who desires the God of Glory as his supreme
delight in this world. He is the one who finds that his well being is not in what he or she may possess in this world; but rather it is that “the nearness of God is my good.”
“What a gift of grace is Jesus my Redeemer! There is no more for heaven now to give. He is my joy, my righteousness and freedom, my steadfast love, my deep and boundless peace. To this I hold, my hope is only Jesus. For my life is wholly bound to His. Oh how strange and divine, I can sing ‘all is mine’; yet not I but through Christ in me.”
Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!
2 Corinthians 9:15
Soli Deo Gloria!