Psalm 73: Remembering the Truth in Times of Doubt
The Psalms, maybe more than any other part of the Bible, help us to explore the depths of our hearts. They help us put words to our doubts and frustrations, but at the same time they give us reminders of the help and hope we have in God. This is especially true of Psalm 73.
In Psalm 73 a man named Asaph expresses a frustration that many have shared. He was a faithful follower of God. In fact, he was a worship leader. But despite his efforts to serve and honor God, his life was marked by difficulty. In addition, as he looked around he saw those who had no regard for God living in prosperity and apparent happiness.
In the Psalm Asaph recounts a time of wavering faith and growing doubts. His eyes were locked in on the prosperity of the wicked and he was overcome with envy. His faith was tested and he almost fell away. But in the end, God allows Asaph to regain a proper perspective. Once again he is able to see life from the perspective of eternity and his confidence and contentment in God are restored.
Asaph’s Faltering Faith (A Man-Oriented Perspective) (73:1-3)
- The Thesis: God is Good (vs. 1) Psalm 73 is written as Asaph looks back at his time of struggle and doubt. Before he recounts his time of doubt he begins with what he now knows to be true: God is good and He is good to those who are His.
- Asaph’s Envy of the Wicked (vv. 2-3) While Asaph had once been confident in God, his faith is now faltering. He has been faithful to God and yet he struggles while the wicked have no regard for God and seem to prosper.
- The Prosperity of the Wicked (vv. 4-12) As Asaph looks at the lives of the wicked his conclusion is simple: They live as they please and seem to have whatever they want. Despite their open rebellion their lives seem good. In verses 4-12 he describes (in vivid language) their apparent prosperity and ease of life.
Their lives are trouble free (vv. 4-5)
They flaunt their sinful ways (vs. 6)
They get everything they desire (vs. 7)
They speak with arrogance and gain a following (vs. 8-10)
They are mockers before God (vs. 11)
Summary: The lives of the wicked are easy and prosperous (vs. 12)
- Asaph’s Conclusion – His Godliness is in Vain and Understanding is Wearisome (73:13-16) After taking stock of the lives of the wicked and his own life of pursuing godliness, this is Asaph’s conclusion: Following God is in vain. It leads to hardship and struggle.
Asaph’s Turning Point (73:17)
- Vs. 17 certainly leaves us wanting more. We aren’t told exactly what Asaph experienced, but we are told that when he went to the place of worship his heart and his perspective were changed. While the first half of the Psalm is marked by a man-oriented perspective, he now sees things from a God-oriented perspective.
Asaph’s Restored Faith (A God-Oriented Perspective) (73:18-28)
- A God-Oriented Perspective: The Future of the Wicked (vv. 18-20) When Asaph was seeing things from his own vantage point he could only see the current situation – the prosperity of the wicked. Now he remembers that there is more to consider than this life. While the wicked may prosper in this life, in the end they are without hope and will experience the judgment of God.
- A God-Oriented Perspective: Asaph Recognizes his own Foolishness (vv. 21-22) With a new perspective Asaph is able to see the foolishness of his former way of thinking. He was responding in ignorance; ignoring the truth of God and eternity.
- A God-Oriented Perspective: We can have total Confidence in God (in life and death) (vv. 23-24) It’s important to recognize that in the course of this Psalm Asaph’s circumstance doesn’t change. What changes is the way he sees his situation and the way he views the God of his situation. While he had been plagued with doubt, now his confidence is restored. God is the one who draws us near, guides us and leads us to glory (grasped, guided, glorified) (Psalm 23).
- A God-Oriented Perspective: We can have Complete Contentment in God (vv. 25-26) While the wicked were finding contentment in earthly things that would pass away Asaph is reminded of the sufficiency and satisfaction that is only available in God. As we trust Him and find our joy in Him we can experience true contentment; regardless of our circumstances.
- Asaph’s Final Conclusion, Restated (vv. 27-28) The Psalm begins with a statement of the goodness of God and it ends the same way. After all he had experienced he is sure that the wicked will perish but God is good to those who trust Him.