PROBLEMS AND PROGRESS
Lord, you are righteous in all that You do.
Read PSALM 73
A psalm of Asaph.
1 Surely God is good to Israel,
to those who are pure in heart.
2 But as for me, my feet had almost slipped;
I had nearly lost my foothold.
3 For I envied the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
4 They have no struggles;
their bodies are healthy and strong.[a]
5 They are free from common human burdens;
they are not plagued by human ills.
6 Therefore pride is their necklace;
they clothe themselves with violence.
7 From their callous hearts comes iniquity[b];
their evil imaginations have no limits.
8 They scoff, and speak with malice;
with arrogance they threaten oppression.
9 Their mouths lay claim to heaven,
and their tongues take possession of the earth.
10 Therefore their people turn to them
and drink up waters in abundance.[c]
11 They say, “How would God know?
Does the Most High know anything?”
12 This is what the wicked are like—
always free of care, they go on amassing wealth.
13 Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure
and have washed my hands in innocence.
14 All day long I have been afflicted,
and every morning brings new punishments.
15 If I had spoken out like that,
I would have betrayed your children.
16 When I tried to understand all this,
it troubled me deeply
17 till I entered the sanctuary of God;
then I understood their final destiny.
18 Surely you place them on slippery ground;
you cast them down to ruin.
19 How suddenly are they destroyed,
completely swept away by terrors!
20 They are like a dream when one awakes;
when you arise, Lord,
you will despise them as fantasies.
21 When my heart was grieved
and my spirit embittered,
22 I was senseless and ignorant;
I was a brute beast before you.
23 Yet I am always with you;
you hold me by my right hand.
24 You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will take me into glory.
25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.
27 Those who are far from you will perish;
you destroy all who are unfaithful to you.
28 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.
a Psalm 73:4 With a different word division of the Hebrew; Masoretic Text struggles at their death; / their bodies are healthy
b Psalm 73:7 Syriac (see also Septuagint); Hebrew Their eyes bulge with fat
c Psalm 73:10 The meaning of the Hebrew for this verse is uncertain.
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalms 23:4)
I am always so grateful to God that Scripture includes records like this, of people who really struggle with the things they see around them. I love it that God allows us to talk to him about our questions and struggles. Jeremiah expresses it perfectly “You are always righteous, LORD, when I bring a case before you. Yet I would speak with you about your justice: why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all the faithless live at ease?” (Jeremiah 12:1) There are surely not many, if any, believers who haven’t found it difficult to understand why a clearly corrupt politician has not been removed, or why a media mogul is not brought down, or why this or that group has yet to face justice – or we may find it hard to cope with why the personal circumstances of our lives weigh us down.
Asaph, who wrote this psalm, was like Jeremiah struggling with the prosperity of those in Israel who were clearly not living in accord with the Law or the covenant. Refreshingly, he shows us that it is OK to speak, both of our difficulties and of a way to move forward. Yes, these problems are real: they exist, and they are difficult to understand. However, we must realize that we can’t grasp the entire picture or see how things will work out in the light of eternity. We do know that God is just, righteous, and all-powerful. We also know that he is always with us, and his presence with us enables us to cope with our struggles and keep moving forward with him.
Verses 26–28 really are worth memorizing! If you can’t do that, try reading them aloud every day for the next week!
We don’t understand, Oh Lord, why You allow the wicked to prosper, but we do understand that You have a higher purpose for it all.