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SUMMER IN THE PSALM 2021  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  57:04
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Psalm 73 begins the third book of the Psalter—the collection of some of Israel's prized hymns, ballads, and congregational hymns. It reminds us of the importance of music in both corporate and individual worship. It reminds us, more importantly, that the subject of our music should be the LORD.
Of the 150 Psalm’s David is credited with 75, 6 other authors are credited with a total of 27, and the remaining 48 have no definitive authorship. The Psalm’s are not complied in chronological order. They are complied in an instructive order: an order that is designed to teach us about the unpredictable path of life.
Psalm 73 opens Book Three in the Psalter. Book three is the smallest of the five books found in the Psalter containing only 17 Psalms. Like the third book of the Bible, Leviticus, it focuses on the holiness of God. Psalm 73 opens the third book by teaching us how to apply the holiness of God to the ugly aspects of life.
Psalm 1 opens with a invitation to consider the path of wisdom. It is a road sign that contrasts two paths of life; the way of the wise and wicked. A cursory reading of the chapter might lead one to think that those who choose the path of the wise will experience unfettered prosperity.
Psalm 1:1–3 ESV
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.
To interpret this passage as “wisdom brings unfettered prosperity” is to misinterpret its meaning. It is teaching us that living wisely is better than living wickedly. Psalm 73 reminds us that those who live wisely will face difficult questions.
Wisdom is no sure prevention from trouble, but it is a cure for heartache.
Wisdom enables us to live with poise in the midst of our problems and predicaments.
Psalm 73 is written by Asaph. According to 1 Chronicles 23:2-5, the 38,000 Levites were divided by David into four divisions. The fourth and final division contained 4,000 Levites who were assigned the musical side of worship. Out of this division, a select company of 288 singers was singled out and divided into 24 courses. These were placed under different song leaders, and of these leaders, Asaph was the chief of sacred music (1 Chron. 16:5).
This information reminds us that all of the Father’s children must FLESH OUT THEIR FAITH. No one gets a pass. Great faith - the kind that we admire and aspire to have - requires deep waters of difficulty and even doubt. Are you glad that someone of Asaph’s ilk struggled with doubt?
We are all prone to deception. Many have fallen into prayerlessness. Bibles lies untouched. Bank ledgers indicate no giving. And our overall disposition and dialogue indicate we no longer trust. How can God’s people find themselves in such a pitiful condition? It is because a misplaced perspective is our enemy's tool to keep us away from God.
This psalm argues that if you cannot see good in your future, then the problem is not with God, but with your vision. This text raises the question of perspective: how do we view life when good things happen to bad people?
Therefore, the text is tailored to teach us that the enigmas and inequalities of life will destroy your faith unless you regularly enjoy God's presence.
When the enigmas and inequalities of real life and right theology trespass on the domain of your theological comfort, don't look down, around, or within, but look up. When the harsh realities of life disrupt your neat theological categories, get to the sanctuary.
Many have asked the enigmatic question of “why does bad things happen to good people”? However, in our text today Asaph turns this question on its head and asks; “why does good things happen to bad people”?
Our text begins like an episode of CSI. It opens with ending and works it way backwards. He tells us the truth and then shows us how to flesh that truth out in real life. Asaph is going to to show us that wisdom will not always keep us from trouble but it is our cure for the heartache trouble causes.


Psalm 73:1 ESV
Truly God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.
Only God is good, always good. In other words, God is nothing but good to his covenant people. Asaph came to realize that in spite of the contradictions of life (described in verses 3-14), God is good.
Throughout history God’s people have declared “God is good all the time and all the time God is good”. This statement of truth is often doubted by those who confess it because circumstances force doubt upon us.
Our proclamation often falls short because of our perspective.
What I love most about the Psalm’s and this one in particular is its honesty. Its raw. Its real. Don’t miss the good news in this chapter; Our God allows us to address perceived contradictions.
Scholars tell us that the grammatical construction of verse two intentionally disjoins the thought. There is a clean break at verse two. In it, Asaph sets in contrast his own thoughts and experience against verse one. "But as for me" is intended to suggest that his experience contradicts the declaration of verse one.
Is this not how life sometimes goes? There are moments when our experience doesn't line up with what the Bible says should be. In these moments, we can inadvertently trade what we know for what we see. We can know truth, but experience can cause us to doubt truth. This psalm reminds us that not all truth is visible in its final application. Some truth is like fruit. It is there and alive in seed form, but it has not yet expanded into its final size.
Listen to Asaph’s honesty in
Psalm 73:2–3 ESV
But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped. For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
The Psalmist finds himself in two of my favorite “Q” words - quandary ( a delicate situation) and quagmire (a bad situation, a bog). Do you feel the toil of his reflection?

How can God be good when good things happen to bad people?

Asaph is wading into universal waters. His faith is experiencing fragility.
Psalm 73:4–12 ESV
For they have no pangs until death; their bodies are fat and sleek. They are not in trouble as others are; they are not stricken like the rest of mankind. Therefore pride is their necklace; violence covers them as a garment. Their eyes swell out through fatness; their hearts overflow with follies. They scoff and speak with malice; loftily they threaten oppression. They set their mouths against the heavens, and their tongue struts through the earth. Therefore his people turn back to them, and find no fault in them. And they say, “How can God know? Is there knowledge in the Most High?” Behold, these are the wicked; always at ease, they increase in riches.
This is how we feel about others lives after scrolling through social media.
What he sees in the world is affecting what he knows about God. He knows God is good yet everything around him says this is not true. This reality causes him to doubt his pursuit of God.
Psalm 73:13–14 ESV
All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence. For all the day long I have been stricken and rebuked every morning.
Asaph falls prey to an age old deception; godly living = the good life.
Job 13:23–24 ESV
How many are my iniquities and my sins? Make me know my transgression and my sin. Why do you hide your face and count me as your enemy?
Job 10:2–3 ESV
I will say to God, Do not condemn me; let me know why you contend against me. Does it seem good to you to oppress, to despise the work of your hands and favor the designs of the wicked?
Malachi 3:13–15 ESV
“Your words have been hard against me, says the Lord. But you say, ‘How have we spoken against you?’ You have said, ‘It is vain to serve God. What is the profit of our keeping his charge or of walking as in mourning before the Lord of hosts? And now we call the arrogant blessed. Evildoers not only prosper but they put God to the test and they escape.’ ”
Godly living does not equal quality of life externally - though it can - it equals quality of life internally and eternally.

Asaph’s problem was not people’s prosperity but his perspective.

Asaph and many other great saints of God fail to understand the ways of an infinite God by looking around instead of looking up. As we have learned through our study of the Psalm’s what we look is powerful. Its transformative. Perspective determines perception and perception creates reality.
As followers of Christ we see through the eyes of understanding. We must all start our understanding of God with the understanding that we will not understand all His ways. Listen to Paul in
2 Corinthians 4:8 ESV
We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair;
Followers of Christ experience perplexity and there is nothing sinful about this emotion. However, despair is altogether different - its sinful. We are in God’s hand, and yet when something unpleasant happens to us we say: “I do not understand”. There is nothing wrong with that - perplexed but not in despair. Perplexity is normal, for our minds are not only finite, they are also weakened by sin. We do not see life clearly; we do not know what is best for us; we cannot take the long view; so it is very natural that we should be perplexed. Though it is not sinful to be perplexed it does open a door to temptation. Our text shows us what happens when temptation is not dealt with quickly - it brings low even the greatest of saints.
We see the strength of this temptation in
Psalm 73:21–22 ESV
When my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in heart, I was brutish and ignorant; I was like a beast toward you.
Asaph is on the brink of abandonment. He is finished with his faith and the God of that faith. And then verse 15 shows us something vital to who Asaph is and how God works.
Psalm 73:15 ESV
If I had said, “I will speak thus,” I would have betrayed the generation of your children.
Something inside of Asaph would not allow him to exercise his internal struggle externally. Asaph never uses God’s covenant name in this chapter as we have seen other authors do in past weeks. However, this does not mean the Covenant keeping God is not at work. Asaph may have been finished with his faith and the God of that faith but the God of that faith was not finished with him. It is here we see verse 2 at work. He would have slipped and stumbled had he spoken.
Psalm 73:23–24 ESV
Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory.
If His grace doesn’t keep you from falling down, it will keep you from staying down. Our Heavenly Father gives us a grace to flesh out a faith that will not fail because he holds and guides us all the way to glory. You are not saved by your amazingly strong faith but by God’s amazingly strong faithfulness.

Asaph was worn out because he was trying to understand life through a secular not a sanctuary perspective.

Psalm 73:16–17 ESV
But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end.
God will bring you to the end of yourself so that he can bring you to himself. Look where the Lord brings him; the sanctuary. The place of equilibrium. The place of understanding. It is the place where the topsy-turvy nature of life sets itself on the solid rock. In the sanctuary you find perspective.
Psalm 73:18–20 ESV
Truly you set them in slippery places; you make them fall to ruin. How they are destroyed in a moment, swept away utterly by terrors! Like a dream when one awakes, O Lord, when you rouse yourself, you despise them as phantoms.
In the sanctuary we can see life in its true reality. It is as if you can hear Asaph saying in postmodern vernacular, When I walked in and the choir was singing 'How Great is our God,' my vision started to even up with God's vision. What was fuzzy became clearer. It takes what we see and hear in the sanctuary to help straighten life out. We all need a "till" moment.
When I go to Birmingham I often turn on the radio to get a traffic update. The traffic reporter is often in a helicopter which affords them a larger vantage point. Traffic reports are not for pleasure but for the relief of pain. They can tell me how to avoid pain or when relief is coming. The traffic reporter doesn’t eliminate the problem they just tell me how to navigate it.
Preachers are like traffic reporters they help us go up in worship and see things as they really are.
Psalm 73 gives us the blessed assurance that the faith of believers will one day be vindicated. Our faith is confirmed when we realize the hope of glory. The future discloses the activity of God: he will expose the wicked as fantasies. Allen Ross says it this way: those who rebel against God will perish, but believers will find joy and safety in God's presence. We will know that the prosperity of the wicked was a sham. It was form without substance. When the wicked awake, they will see their prosperity was a bad dream.
When we flesh out our faith our conclusion is this:
Psalm 73:25–26 ESV
Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
Fleshing out our faith further strengthens our relationship with our Father. Our Father uses our doubting to deepen our faith not to destroy it. Asaph’s doubt lead him to a deeper relationship . . .
Psalm 73:28 ESV
But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all your works.
But for me it is good to be near God because God is good.
Acts 2:22–24 ESV
“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.
Genesis 50:20 ESV
As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.
Romans 5:6–8 ESV
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
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