psalm-73

Exodus 26, Proverbs 2, Psalm 73

Exodus 26, Proverbs 2, Psalm 73 Today’s readings are Exodus 26, Proverbs 2, and Psalm 73.

This devotional is about Psalm 73, with a few allusions to Proverbs 2.

Proverbs 2 seems to make several strong, blanket promises. Verses 7-8 says, “He [“the Lord”] holds success in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, for he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones.” Later in verses 21-22 we read, “For the upright will live in the land, and the blameless will remain in it; but the wicked will be cut off from the land, and the unfaithful will be torn from it.” These passages promise good things to the godly and wise and bad things to the wicked. Easy enough.

But Asaph’s experience in Psalm 73 was just the opposite. He nearly rejected the Lord because he “envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.” Verses 4-11 describe the sins of the ungodly, then verse 12 says, “This is what the wicked are like—always free of care, they go on amassing wealth.” Contrary to the claims of Proverbs 2 (and others), Asaph found that it was ungodly who prospered.

Meanwhile he felt, “Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure and have washed my hands in innocence. All day long I have been afflicted, and every morning brings new punishments.” Instead of finding the success and prosperity that Proverbs seems to promise to the godly, Asaph struggled with affliction despite his pure heart and saw the godly prosper daily.

Eventually Asaph came to the same conclusion as Solomon: “Those who are far from you will perish; you destroy all who are unfaithful to you. But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds” (vv. 27-28). But how did he come to believe this? Verse 17: “till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny.” It wasn’t until he heard God’s word in the Tabernacle/Temple that Asaph understood that there would be eternal unhappiness for the wicked and eternal joy for the believer.

It is helpful to be reminded of this periodically. If we selectively compare ungodly people with our own experience, we will certainly find some wicked people who are prospering--or at least appear to be. Their prosperity, though, will be short-lived. In this world, wickedness eventually catches up with a person and godly eventually brings blessing. But there are some situations where the wicked receive no penalties and the godly receive no rewards in this life. Those are exceptions and they will be set straight in eternity when each of us stands before God.

As for the “promises” in Proverbs--they are not absolute promises but descriptions of what is generally true and what usually happens. Because God is sovereign, he overrules some situations. Sometimes godly people who honor their parents and live wisely still die young. In other cases, ungodly men may live a long time. But these are exceptions that God allows for his purpose. If you follow the lives of most people who walk with God, you will find that they live longer and are happier than their counterparts. Obedience usually brings great blessings so we should trust God, obey him, and let him decide if there will be exceptions to the laws he embedded in creation.

Numbers 29, Psalm 73, Isaiah 21, 2 Peter 2

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: Numbers 29, Psalm 73, Isaiah 21, 2 Peter 2. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can't do all the readings today, read Psalm 73.

Is it really worth it to follow God? If you’ve ever asked that question, you identify with Asaph’s song here in Psalm 73. He begins by affirming God’s goodness to those who are righteous (v. 1) but then contrasts how he nearly lost his faith (v. 2). The problem was his envy toward those who lived sinful lives and yet seemed to prosper (vv. 3-12). In that long section of verses, Asaph describes a distorted perspective on those who are sinful. They have it all—health (vv. 4-5), confidence (v. 6), all the fun that sin can offer (vv. 7-8), the fawning attention of others (vv. 10-11), and an ever-expanding bank account (v. 12). 

If you saw all of that, and had none of it yourself, you’d wonder if you were doing life wrong just as Asaph did (vv. 13-16). So what kept him from turning away from everything he believed and the life he had always lived? Verse 17: “till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny.” It was God’s revelation that saved Asaph’s faith and his morality. When he heard God’s promises of judgment explained in the tabernacle, then he had the right perspective and the motivation to keep following God (vv. 18-20). 

What was the result of the correcting power of God’s word? Repentance (vv. 21-22) which led to a renewed love for God and appreciation for his grace. Asaph realized that God was always with him, always holding him (v. 23). He learned that God would give him wisdom to live well in this life (v. 24a) and then would bring him into eternal life (v. 24b). Understanding this gave him a deeper thirst to know and love God (vv. 24-28). These words are so encouraging, so powerful to stimulate my emotions: “Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever…. as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds” (vv. 25-26, 28).

This passage reminds us how easily our perspective gets distorted. We maximize our own pain and struggle in our minds while simultaneously concluding that everyone else has a perfect, carefree life and can do whatever they want. This is why we need the nourishment of God’s word and instruction in it as often as possible. Not only do we learn more about God but God’s word corrects our focus and reminds us of the eternal perspective we need to keep on following Christ, even when things get hard.

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/calvarybiblechurch/. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we'll talk scripture again tomorrow.