Bible: What Does Psalms 73-8 Teach Us About the Prosperity of the Wicked and About God's Faithfulness and Justice?
The Unrighteous Wealthy
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Psalms 73-78: The Prosperity of the Wicked; God's Faithfulness and Justice
Asaph affirms God's goodness toward the pure in heart (v. 1), but then confesses his own weakness in this regard, noting how his envying the prosperous wicked at one time almost caused his spiritual fall (vv. 2-3).
Seeing how easy and carefree they lived (vv. 4-5) in proudly defiant violence (vv. 6, 8-11) and luxurious abundance (vv. 7, 12) nearly drove him to give up on God, who had allowed daily chastening in his life (vv. 13-14).
Asaph struggled mightily with this dilemma.
Although he thought his lot in life unfair when comparing it with that of the wicked, he also felt that complaining about his trials would have caused young believers to stumble; therefore, he refrained from exhibiting that attitude (v. 15).
He also tried to rationalize why God caused his life to be so difficult; however, that approach also proved too troubling to him (v. 16).
Only when he meditated upon the truth about God while visiting the sanctuary one day did he come to understand that the wicked one’s end was sudden destruction at the LORD's hand (vv. 17-20).
Asaph then reviled himself for his foolish envy (vv. 21-22), yet he also comforted himself with the knowledge of God's presence, strengthening, guidance, and salvation in his life (vv. 23-24).
Asking himself a question that revealed his reverence for God, he professes his utter loyalty to the LORD, and his reliance upon Him for strength (vv. 25-26).
Asaph realizes two eternal facts:
(1) unbelievers will surely perish, and
(2) it is good for him to trust in the LORD (vv. 27-28).
[Regaining a clear focus of the true riches that believers have in God will serve to cure the nastiest cases of envy that Satan and the old habit remnants of our fallen nature can thrust upon us].
In a maskil, Asaph directly questions God why He is angry with His “sheep” (v. 1).
Instead, he pleads with Him to think favorably upon His people: the congregation He purchased, the inheritance He redeemed, and the place (Mount Zion) He inhabited (v. 2).
The psalmist calls upon God to "lift up His feet"—presumably, he asks Him to act against enemies who have taken up the axe and hammer, have attacked the city, and have used fire to defile the sanctuary and destroy “all the meeting places of God in the land” (vv. 3-8).
The present times in Israel are “prophet-less”; the nation deserves reproach and divine withdrawal, but not forever (vv. 9-11).
Asaph remembers the eternal power of the LORD, Who saved His people at the Sea of Reeds (vv. 12-13).
[What the sea serpents/ Leviathan represent(s) is in question; but whatever it was/they were, its/their flesh sustained the desert wanderers of old (vv. 13b-14)].
The psalmist exalts the LORD as the Sovereign Creator (vv. 15-17).
Petitioning the LORD to remember the enemy's reproach against Him, Asaph pleads for deliverance in light of the covenant (vv. 18-23).
[Knowing that God must guard the covenant and the holiness of His Name, and acknowledging that Israel in herself is completely unworthy of salvation, Asaph pleads that the LORD might deliver Israel from her current aggressor].
Asaph offers thanks as he witnesses God's works, thereby acknowledging the immediate presence of His wonderful character (name) (v. 1).
Elohim declares that He will judge the earth and its inhabitants righteously at the proper time, especially the boastful and the wicked (vv. 2-5) whom He says will drink the dregs of the wine of His wrath because of their pride (vv. 6-8).
Asaph, however, rejoices that he himself will sing His praises forever (v. 9).
God then states His decisions regarding the destinies of the wicked and the righteous (v. 10).
[God will one day righteously judge humanity, granting life to the righteous and pouring out wrath on the proud wicked].
The Potter and the Clay
Israel knows God through His establishment (the tabernacle) and His victories (vv. 1-3).
Asaph extols Him for His mighty judgments over the strong oppressor, and acknowledges that He should be feared on earth (vv. 4-9).
Because God turns mankind's wrath against Him into praise, all people should pay their vows to Him (vv. 10-12).
[God's sovereign power should cause man to fear Him and serve Him].
Prayer and Meditation
Asaph relates a troubling time of personal prayer during which he meditated upon the days of old (vv. 1-6).
While speculating with a series of questions upon whether or not God had rejected His people (vv. 7-9), he remembers God's works in the past, especially His redemption of Israel (vv. 10-15).
Verses 16-20 recall His leading the nation through the wilderness and at the Sea of Reeds.
[Remembering and meditating upon one's redemption quells many fears of rejection].
The Word of the LORD
The psalmist Asaph addresses his “people,” instructing them to listen obediently to “my law,” “the words of my mouth,” “a parable,” and “the dark sayings of old” (vv. 1-2).
These historical messages about the LORD and His powerful works, messages “our fathers” made known to Asaph and to all Israel in obedience to God’s command, the psalmist promises to set forth before the present-day children.
He will do so with the hope that they might in turn relay that truth to their children to the end that these individuals, too, might learn to "set their hope in God" and not mimic their fathers’ spiritually unfaithful disobedience (vv. 1-8; cf. 2 Tim. 2:2; 3:14, 15).
Asaph commences his review of Israel's past with the covenant-breaking and forgetfulness of the heavily armed “children of Ephraim (vv. 9-11).
He reminds them how God rescued (vv. 12-13), provided for, and specifically favored them throughout the Exodus and the wilderness wanderings (vv. 14-16, 20a), yet they constantly rebelled against Him and forgot His goodness toward them (vv. 17-19, 20b).
Because of their unbelief, the LORD poured out His wrath upon them (vv. 21-22).
He sustained them with abundant water, heavenly manna, and “feathered fowl”; yet their ungrateful sinfulness and unbelief brought judgment, futility, and fear upon them (vv. 23-33).
Israel briefly repented after experiencing these chastenings (vv. 34-35), but soon they returned to their flattering, lying, unfaithful ways (vv. 36-37).
In spite of their iniquity, God compassionately forgave them repeatedly, “remembering” the weakness and mortality of His people (vv. 38-39).
Asaph recalls how often Israel “provoked,” “grieved,” “tempted,” and “limited” the LORD, having forgotten His omnipotence and His salvation (vv. 40-42).
He reviews some of Yahweh’s “signs” upon Egypt: turning their waters to blood (vv. 43-44), sending flies and frogs among them (v. 45), destroying their vegetation (vv. 46-47) and their livestock (v. 48), and wrathfully killing their first-born with “angels of destruction” (vv. 49-51).
Yet the psalmist also recounts Yahweh’s protection of Israel from the time of the Exodus, through the wilderness wanderings to “the holy border” where God’s mountain stood, and even through the conquest and settlement in Canaan (vv. 52-55).
Israel’s unfaithfulness continues in Canaan (“testing,” “provoked,” “did not keep His testimonies,” “turned back,” “acted unfaithfully,” “were turned aside,” “moved Him to jealousy”); therefore, God again acted in wrath against them, sending “the tabernacle of Shiloh,” “His strength,” and “His glory” into captivity (vv. 56-61).
“His people” and “His inheritance” suffered horribly by sword and fire; various strata of society—“young men,” “maidens,” “priests,” and “widows”—perished (vv. 62-64).
God again showed compassion upon Israel by putting down His enemies (vv. 65-66).
The LORD finally rejected Israel and chose David from the tribe of Judah to shepherd Jacob His people (vv. 67-72).
[A very long psalm, this work is a prime witness to God's holiness and grace amid Israel's sinfulness].
© 2013 glynch1