Monday, January 21, 2013

Psalm 73: A psalm of jealousy

Psalm 73
A psalm of jealousy

1 A Psalm of Asaph.
      My name is Asaph. I am the worship leader for the house of God; I direct the worship sets. I am also a lead vocalist and percussionist. This song is my story.

   Truly God is good to Israel, to such as are pure in heart.
2 But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled; my steps had nearly slipped.
3 For I was envious of the boastful, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

     God takes good care of those who are His... those with undivided hearts towards Him.  But my heart was not pure; I flirted with compromise, and considered unfaithfulness.
     I wanted what others had, desperately... even though I disapproved of their character and lifestyle.

4 For there are no pangs in their death, but their strength is firm. 
5 They are not in trouble as other men, nor are they plagued like other men.

     They have it so easy. Perfect health, perfect career, perfect house, perfect car, perfect family, perfect public image... they seem immune to normal human struggles.

6 Therefore pride serves as their necklace; violence covers them like a garment.
7 Their eyes bulge with abundance; they have more than heart could wish.
8 They scoff and speak wickedly concerning oppression; they speak loftily.
9 They set their mouth against the heavens, and their tongue walks through the earth.
10 Therefore his people return here, and waters of a full cup are drained by them.
11 And they say, "How does God know? And is there knowledge in the Most High?"
12 Behold, these are the ungodly, who are always at ease; they increase in riches.

     They are so proud and haughty about their riches and honour. They seem to think they are inherently better than everyone else, and thus exalt themselves without conscience. They don't care for the poor or weak, nor for the almighty God above all men. Their chief end is to please themselves and at this they are most successful.

13 Surely I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocence.
14 For all day long I have been plagued, and chastened every morning.

     When I surrendered to Your lordship and accepted Your calling in my life, I gave up my right to pursue the things of this world that bring passing pleasure and fading glory. I imagined a life of joyful service, but I did not expect to be miserable under Your hand of chastisement. The poverty would be almost bearable if there was any sign of Your hand of blessing on my ministry! Will there ever be any visible fruit? Must I live in utter brokenness forever? For what purpose did I give up the pleasures of this world, if I am not to experience the joys of being in your service?  Surely, You did not call me to this just to put me on a shelf?

15 If I had said, "I will speak thus," behold, I would have been untrue to the generation of Your children.

     Of course I couldn't say these things aloud, lest I misrepresent who You are to those You've called me to minister to... for in spite of of my personal pain, I know that You are still good and Your calling still good.  If only I experienced what I believe!

16 When I thought how to understand this, it was too painful for me—

     I couldn't handle the cloudy mixture of fact, faith, and feeling anymore.... I knew the truth, but did not understand how my own experience fit into it.... for it seemed to contradict it.  The facts are the same as they always have been and always will. You are God; there is no other. You are good and Your calling good, but oh! to believe that when my feelings tell me otherwise! I felt so confused and tortured in my soul.

17 Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I understood their end.
18 Surely You set them in slippery places; You cast them down to destruction.
19 Oh, how they are brought to desolation, as in a moment! They are utterly consumed with terrors.
20 As a dream when one awakes, so, Lord, when You awake, You shall despise their image.

     Then, I stood before You, in Your house, in Your presence, before Your mercy seat.... and I suddenly understood. A chill went down my spine. They are appointed to wrath. The pleasure they have now is all they will ever have for all eternity. It was tragic, terrible, and utterly terrifying!

21 Thus my heart was grieved, and I was vexed in my mind.
22 I was so foolish and ignorant; I was like a beast before You.

    How could I have been so earthly minded? I had lost sight of eternity. I had been thinking on a level no higher than an animal... I felt so silly and base to have envied the lost.

23 Nevertheless I am continually with You; You hold me by my right hand.
24 You will guide me with Your counsel, and afterward receive me to glory.

     The greatest thing in this life is to be continually in Your presence! Oh God, thank You! You keep me from falling headlong into sin and error, You lead me in the right way, and someday You will bring me home to receive the most amazing inheritance that ever was!  

25 Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You.
26 My flesh and my heart fail; but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

     You are my everything! Everyone, every thing, on earth or heaven pales in comparison to You. My body and my soul, they fail me. I sin, I stumble, I fail, and one day I will die. But You LORD are my strength, physically and spiritually, and I will spend eternity with You in ecstasy!

27 For indeed, those who are far from You shall perish; You have destroyed all those who desert You for harlotry.
28  But it is good for me to draw near to God; I have put my trust in the Lord GOD, that I may declare all Your works.
     When it comes down to it... those who trust in You wholeheartedly will spend eternity with You; those who love this world more than You, will spend eternity far from You. As for me, I love You, trust You, and want to be with You. I will persevere in my calling by Your grace, and remember Your faithfulness to me.

NOTE: Asaph was likely the chief musician referenced in David's Psalms. David and Asaph were likely close friends, as David was the one to appoint Asaph from lead singer and percussionist to chief musician (1 Chronicles 6, etc...) They clearly shared a gift and passion for worship. Asaph's psalm is as potent and convicting today as it was when it was written some three thousand years ago. 

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