A reflection on psalm 73 from the Rectory 10th September
1 Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.
2 But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. 3 For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
4 They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong.[a] 5 They are free from common human burdens; they are not plagued by human ills. 6 Therefore pride is their necklace; they clothe themselves with violence. 7 From their callous hearts comes iniquity[b]; their evil imaginations have no limits. 8 They scoff, and speak with malice; with arrogance they threaten oppression. 9 Their mouths lay claim to heaven, and their tongues take possession of the earth. 10 Therefore their people turn to them and drink up waters in abundance.[c] 11 They say, “How would God know? Does the Most High know anything?”
12 This is what the wicked are like— always free of care, they go on amassing wealth.
13 Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure and have washed my hands in innocence. 14 All day long I have been afflicted, and every morning brings new punishments.
15 If I had spoken out like that, I would have betrayed your children. 16 When I tried to understand all this, it troubled me deeply 17 till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny.
18 Surely you place them on slippery ground; you cast them down to ruin. 19 How suddenly are they destroyed, completely swept away by terrors! 20 They are like a dream when one awakes; when you arise, Lord, you will despise them as fantasies.
21 When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, 22 I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you.
23 Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. 24 You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. 25 Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. 26 My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
27 Those who are far from you will perish; you destroy all who are unfaithful to you. 28 But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds.
Although the psalmist was well aware of the goodness of God towards his people (vs 1), his observation of what was happening in society all around him almost led him to lose his way and throw in the towel. The wicked seemed to be getting away with it, which led him to consider if it was a complete waste of time trying to live his life according to God’s laws. “They seem to live such a painless life; their bodies are so healthy and strong. They aren’t troubled like other people or plagued with problems like everyone else.” (vs 4-5 New Living translation) and he was angry that God did not appear to be doing anything to sort the situation out. It was only when he went to the sanctuary (God’s house) and he was reminded of the destiny of the wicked in the long term that he came to his senses and realised the foolishness of how he had been thinking. He was reminded as John Goldingay in his commentary Psalms for Everyone helpfully puts it of “the fact that faithless people are doing well now does not mean that they will do forever and the fact that innocent people are suffering does not mean that they will forever.” The psalmist realised that God was in heaven and was the source of his help (vs 25) and that although his health my fail and his spirit grow weak God remained the strength of his heart forever (vs 26).
Hebrew 12 reminds us, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honour beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up.” (New Living Translation)
When we consider all the Jesus went through before it came good for him it helps us maintain a proper perspective on our lives and all that we are going through and encourages us to believe that in the long run those who trust in the Lord will have the last laugh!