TEXT: Psalm 73
TITLE: “Lacking Perspective “
Date preached : 22/11/2009
This Psalm deals with a double problem which has often perplexed God’s people :
- Why do godly people suffer so frequently?
- Why do the ungodly prosper so frequently?
I thank God for the remarkable honesty of the Psalms. Thank God that the Bible portrays life as it is , ‘warts and all‘. The Bible is not about perfect people who never put a foot wrong . You will not find a person in the Bible who gives you the impression that they are always on the top of the mountain. That is a distorted view of Christianity – a distorted view of life in this world under Christ.
Christians do struggle- and perhaps sometimes even more so , because their whole worldview is opposed to ungodliness , and therefore they are even more at risk concerning the range of possibilities that could cause depression. The difference is however that the Christian woman and man is ultimately in the hand of God, and when they cry out to Him , they will once again find deliverance and perspective. This is the testimony concerning
in the book of Judges. This is the story of the man in Psalm 73. Israel
This Psalm reflects the confession of a man called Asaph who tells us of an occasion when “ his feet had almost stumbled / slipped” (v.2). The indication here is that this situation arose unexpectedly. He was clearly not prepared for this . It nearly “threw” him.
But we are running ahead of the story.
V.1 begins with a testimony of praise and thanksgiving: “Surely God is good to
, to those who are pure in heart “. He is reflecting on a past event in which he had nearly fallen into a dreadful trap – but praise be to God , he has escaped from that. The important point that he makes here is that God is always good to the pure in heart. Let us consider how he arrives at this conclusion. Israel
What he is saying in a nutshell :
He reflects the experience of a believer who at some point nearly went spiritually astray. He became almost embittered and disillusioned with God, on account of a situation that he had observed and misinterpreted . With this experience now behind him he uses these graphic terms to describe what almost happened: “ My feet had almost stumbled , my steps had nearly slipped .” “Almost …” , “ nearly…” ! Thank God , he did not slip!
Vv 3 – 14: What it was that had nearly caused him to slip .
He was observing life ( as we all do) from his perspective as a believer , and he began to note that whilst he was seeking to live a godly life, seeking to keep his heart clean, washing his hands in innocence (v.13), he became overwhelmed by the fact that “ all the day long he had been stricken and rebuked every morning…” (v.14), whilst observing that the wicked were “ …always at ease, increasing in riches …” .
He was having a hard time reconciling his suffering as a believer with the seeming ease and prosperity which the arrogant and the wicked (v.3) enjoyed. He saw how self assured , self confident and successful they appeared to be. The thought of death does apparently not scare them (until death comes !) ; their bodies are fat and sleek . They do not appear to have any troubles. They are proud , violent , fat ( Note the vivid description - ‘ their eyes swell out through fatness’ ); their speech is scoffing and malicious ; they threaten oppression. In modern day terms they would say : “ Don’t touch me , I will sue you! “ But worst of all, their mouths even spoke boastfully against God (see vv 9- 10) . They say : “ How can God know? Is there knowledge in the Most High ?” You hear this sort of thing today . You hear modern scoffers say : ” You Christians talk about your God . But all you seem to have is problems . You and your church .Look at the hypocrites you live with ! And look at us . Nothing is wrong with us . We are happy , we are secure – but you who are so godly , look at the things that happen to you .”
By the time we get to v.13 , we see that the Psalmist is quite despondent : “ All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence” .
So , this is the position in which he finds himself. These are the thought patterns which cause this spiritual depression in Him, and it is obviously a very great temptation to his soul - for humanly speaking it nearly led to his demise.
Before we continue to consider how the Psalmist was delivered from this problem , let us make ...
A few observations about the nature of such trials and temptations which are common to Christians .
1. In and of themselves such perplexities and temptations are not sinful . It is what we do with them that determines whether we will get through this storm. Note that the apostle Paul who suffered very great temptations so very often , said in 2 Cor 4 :8 : “We are afflicted in every way , but not crushed ; perplexed , but not driven to despair; persecuted but not forsaken ; struck down but not destroyed …”. Paul was perplexed. He did not understand what was happening to him , but this fact did not drive him to despair .
2. Perplexities and lack of perspective are dangerous in that they can easily lead us into temptation . This was the situation with the Psalmist . We must remember that lack of perspective produces a ‘ blinding effect '. It is like driving into the sun as it sets on the horizon . You struggle to see the road ahead . In the same way there are come these perplexing times when we are caught "off balance" and are not able to think clearly.
3. All of us must be very careful concerning this and not think that these things cannot happen to us . We must take counsel from 1 Cor 10 :12 : “ Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall”. In this regard it is also important that we should make full use of the armour of God ( Eph 6:10-18)
The Turning Point : vv 15 ff
The turning point begins in v.15 “ If I had said: I will speak thus , I would have betrayed the generation of your children.” Please note, the problem isn’t solved yet, but he makes a very important turn here . He is saying , “I don’t understand what is happening here, but I also know that my thoughts have been leading me into very dangerous, blasphemous paths. I must watch my subjective feelings now, for if I carry my thoughts to a logical conclusion , I am going to do damage – I am going to betray the generation of your children ; I am going to be a negative example to other believers.”
Asaph is expressing a very weighty matter here . Since he seems to have been a spiritual leader who is now going through a spiritual crisis, it will be very important to watch him how he copes with this crisis. If he fails, he may cause much damage in the process.
So, note that Asaph is beginning to think about the consequences of his thoughts .
The slipping has stopped !
He is no longer in danger of uttering those blasphemous thoughts that were threatening to overflow from his mouth and thus affect those around him. But still the perspective is not quite there yet ! We see this , because in v.16 he confesses: “But when I thought how to understand this , it seemed to me a wearisome task .”
Let’s face it – how do you figure out something as perplexing as this? Will you ever figure out how a good God allows his children to suffer , whilst allowing the wicked to prosper ?
V. 17 – The turning point and the importance of spiritual thinking
“…until I went into the sanctuary of God ; then I discerned their end.“
When Asaph went to the house of God his perspective changed in an instant. In an instant he began to adopt a spiritual approach to thinking about life and its complexities instead of a humanistic, rational , “at face value” approach . Everything changed in a moment when he saw that. Spiritual thinking had now put everything into perspective for Asaph.
If there is a lesson for us in this , then it is this: The Bible has an answer for all the perplexities of life. We need to bring ourselves under the influence of the Word of God (both in our private reading of the Word and in hearing the Word read and expounded in public worship). We need to have our thought processes regulated by spiritual logic and wisdom , rather than by conventional human wisdom.
If only we would allow ourselves to think spiritually and biblically about everything, we will not easily be taken captive by such oppressive thoughts. We will always be able to come to the conclusion of Asaph : “ Truly God is good to
, to those who are pure in heart”. There is always an answer for the seeker after God’s truth. For Asaph that happened when he went into the sanctuary of God. Israel
Dr Lloyd Jones preached a series of sermons on this Psalm and has has helped me to see some important applications. I quote : 
“When something happens which we do not understand, the first thing we have to say to ourselves is : “ Am I facing this spiritually ? Am I recollecting that this is a question of my relationship with God ? Am I sure my thinking is spiritual at this point ? Or have I reverted unconsciously to my natural way of thinking about these things ? “
He then gives a very useful example of how easily we succumb to rationalistic rather than to biblical thinking :
“I have often known Christian people revert completely from spiritual to rational thinking when talking about politics. On this subject they do not seem to be talking as spiritual people any longer. All the prejudices of the natural person enter in … and all the worldly arguments . Our lives must be consistent …. We must be spiritual at all points…“
Lloyd Jones relates how Spurgeon once told his students that they would find people who in prayer meetings prayed like real saints, and who in general behaved like true saints, and yet in a church meeting suddenly become devils .
Lloyd Jones comments further: “You see , in praying to God they think spiritually. Then they come into the business of the church and they become devils. Why? Because they start off in an unspiritual manner, on the assumption that there is an essential difference between a church meeting and a prayer meeting. They have a party spirit within them. And out it comes. It is simply because they forget that they need to think spiritually in everything .”
What did Asaph see in the sanctuary that provided him with this spiritual perspective ? Verses 18- 28 tell the story:
- Vv 18 – 20 & 27 he tells us how he had been provided with a revelation of the future of the wicked . he saw at once that there is no way that the wicked shall escape the just wrath and the omnipotent eye of God . Therefore, the child of God must therefore not envy them , and not worry about the short lived prosperity of the wicked. Life is short and eternity is long. Asaph has the pleasure of knowing that he will be received into glory (v.24). But those that are far from God will perish ! (v.27)
- Vv 21-22 are a confession. Asaph confesses his own sinfulness in this matter . He confesses that this wrong thinking has made him embittered … brutish … ignorant . He admits : “ I behaved like a beast toward God” .
- Vv 23-26 & 28 is a reaffirmation of the love of God and the sovereign protection of God for him.
Truly God is good to you, dear child of God. He is good to those who are pure in heart – those who have set their eyes continually upon their God . He will not cause their foot to slip. Thank God for the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints . Amen !
Asaph was a descendant of Gershom , son of Levi ( 1 Chron 6:39) . He was nominated by the chief Levites as a leading singer when the ark was brought back to
( 1 Chron 15:17-19 ). David made him the head of choral worship ( 1 Chron. 16:4,5). In 2 Chron. 29:30 and Neh. 12:46 David and Asaph are named together . In 2 Chron 29:30 Asaph is called “ a seer” . He is the author of a number of Psalms Jerusalem
 D.Martyn Lloyd Jones : Faith on Trial , p 105/106