The Final Reward of the Wicked and the Righteous
We are turning to Book 3 of the psalter. It covers psalms 73 - 89. A distinguishing feature of this book of psalms is it dark and despairing tone. The LORD has rejected His people. Questions are raised concerning the justice of God and the prosperity of the wicked (psalms 73 and 74). Cries are made for the help and mercy of the LORD (psalms 83, 85, and 88). The last psalm in the book ends the writer questions God’s commitment to His covenant with David. It must be noted that The LORD’s rejection is not due to His unfaithfulness but the unfaithfulness of His people. Psalm 76 tells us none can stand before the Lord and in Psalm 79 the writer can only look back in sorrow and despair as he recalls what Yahweh did for His people, now in exile. We aren’t left completely without hope as Psalm 85 speaks of restoration and Psalm 86 expressed confidence in the LORD’s trust. Our current psalm remains us that while wickedness may prevail for a time, the judgment of God is coming his enemies and reward for His faithful. There are some important issues we will see and discuss in this next book. It is my prayer that as we study we continue to grow in our reverence, worship, and confidence in the LORD.
This psalm and the ten the come after are attributed to a man named Asaph. There were several men in the Bible with this name but this likely refers to Asaph, son of Berechiah (1 Chr 6:39). “He was a Levite appointed by David to worship before the ark (1 Chr 16:4–7). David later established his family as temple musicians (1 Chr 25:1–2). His descendants continued this role throughout the period of the kings (2 Chr 35:15) and again after the exile (Ezra 3:10; Neh 11:17).” We find in this psalm a familiar theme: the outward prosperity of the wicked in the face of their evil. The question is again raised as to how Yahweh can allow this to continue. The psalmist knows the LORD is good to those who fears Him but that is not his present experience. He despairs over injustice done and the current triumph impacted him to the point that he almost fell. Yet once he comes into God’s presence and gains a godly perspective he comes to realize that their current prosperity will not last. Whatever joy they have not is fleeting and only destruction awaits them if they don’t repent. Yahweh is a God of justice and He will execute such upon evildoers. The psalmist ends declaring the Lord is His refuge and will uphold him in times of trouble. We can break this psalm into X parts.
The near fall of the psalmist (vs. 1 - 3)
The prosperity of the wicked (vs. 4 - 12)
The psalmist initial reaction to injustice (vs. 13 - 17)
The psalmist assurance of God’s justice (vs. 18 - 20)
The folly of the psalmist initial response (vs. 21 - 22)
The psalmist confidence in His God (vs. 23 - 26)
The psalmist hope in his God (vs. 27 - 28)
Verses 1 - 3: The psalmist begins be declaring that God is good that those with a pure heart, that is those who seek to walk in a manner pleasing unto the Lord. Yet the psalmist see the goodness of God in front of him. He sees only the wickedness. He saw the unrighteous succeeding in their endeavors and was envious. They are proud of their deeds. They see nothing wrong with their actions. They are being rewarded for them. It isn’t the case with the psalmist who is walking the path of righteousness. Therefore he almost fell because he looked upon their present pleasure and not his sovereign master. He wandered why he should suffer while they live in ease. This was and is a problem. The late James Montgomery Boice put it this way: “Our problem is envy, and envy is criticizing God. It is sin.”
Verses 4 - 12: The psalmist goes into great detail concerning the prosperity of the ungodly. They live a life of ease until they die. They have access to good food and clean water and so their health is good. They don’t experience the hardships that the less fortunate do. Their arrogance is a badge of honor for them. Violence and harm is part of the normal way of life. They do whatever their evil hearts desire. They engage in mockery and harmful speech. They threaten those who would challenge them. They speak flippantly, as if they know they are the ones in charge. They act as if Yahweh doesn’t see or care about their misdeeds. These people are evil, live good, and get richer.
Verses 13 - 17: The psalmist initial reaction to the prosperity is despair. His faithfulness to the Lord has been for nought. Walking before the Lord has had not profit. He endures hardship because of his faithfulness and it continues day by day. Yet, he can’t stay these things aloud however because it would harm his fellow faithful. The more he thought about it, seeking to figure it out, the worse it got from Him. Then the paradigm shift happened. He came into the house of God. He entered into the presence of the LORD and his eyes were opened to see things how the LORD saw them. The wicked, who fail to repent, will face the judgment of God. They will be brought to their end.
Verses 18 -20: The psalmist comes to understand that the wicked are on the path to destruction. They are in a place were there fall is guaranteed. At the appointed time they will be here one moment and gone the next. When the LORD arises He will set His face against them and they will left in terror.
Verses 21 - 22: Having been in the presence of the LORD, and seeing things through the prism of who Yahweh is, the psalmist realizes the folly of his actions. He allowed the injustice before him to engender bitterness in his heart and acted foolishly before the LORD.
Verses 23 - 26: Yet, he is comforted by the reality that his God is with Him. The LORD by His word will guide the psalmist. He will remain with him throughout the psalmist life and bring him home to Himself. There is no one like the LORD in heaven. There is nothing on earth the psalmist prefers over his relationship with Yahweh. The psalmist may become weak in the natural but he will always be able to rely on the strength of God.
Verses 27 - 28: The psalmist concludes with a contrasts: those whom reject the God of Israel shall perish. He shall destroy the wicked. In contrast he has drawn near to God. He has made the LORD his safety. He trust in the LORD and will tell all who will hear about what the LORD has done.
 Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Ps 73:title). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
 Boice, J. M. (2005). Psalms 42–106: An Expositional Commentary (p. 612). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.