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Sunday, June 03, 2007

Psalm 73

Doubting Thomas, an altar piece by Carl Bloch

Psalms 73

A Psalm of Asaph. Truly God is good to Israel, to the pure of heart. And I, my foot had almost stumbled; my steps had nearly slipped. For I was jealous of the proud, when I saw the peace of the wicked. For there are no bands in their death; but their strength is fat. They are not in trouble like other men; neither are they plagued like other men. Therefore pride enchains them; violence covers them like a robe. Their eyes stand out with fatness; they have more than the heart could imagine. They scoff and speak in malice of cruelty; from on high they speak. They set their mouth against the heavens, and their tongue walks through the earth. Therefore His people return here, and waters of a full cup are wrung out to them. And they say, How does God know? And is there knowledge in the Most High? Behold, these are the ungodly, who are at ease in the world; they increase in riches. Surely I have made my heart pure in vain, and washed my hands in innocence. For all the day long I have been plagued, and chastened every morning. If I say, I will speak thus; behold, I would deceive a generation of Your sons. When I thought deeply in order to understand this, it was painful for me, until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I understood their end. Surely You set them in slippery places; You cast them down into ruin. How have they been brought into grief, as in a moment! They are fully eaten up with terrors, like a dream when one awakens; so, O Jehovah, when You awake, You shall despise their image. For my heart was grieved and I was pricked in my reins. So foolish was I, and I did not know; I was like a beast before You. But I am always with You; You have held me by my right hand. You shall lead me with Your counsel, and afterward receive me to glory. Whom have I in Heaven? And besides You I desire none on earth. My flesh and my heart fail; but God is the strength of my heart, and my part forever. For lo, those who are far from You shall perish; You have destroyed all who go lusting away from You. And I, it is good for me to draw near to God; I have put my trust in Jehovah God, to declare all Your works.

The abrupt start to this Psalm indicates it is the conclusion of his perplexing thoughts. The Psalmist is expressing his feelings, his wavering faith, his weakness. Why do the wicked seem to prosper? Is God really in control? Does He not see? Is God a righteous judge after all? Their prosperity seems to be at the expense of God's people. Though they try to live a holy life, they still find themselves in trials.

But the Psalmist took his questions to God in prayer. He got alone (in the sanctuary) with God and poured out his feelings and his questions. He did not turn his back on God and use his questions as a reason. So many people ask the questions but they don't really want to know the answers. They are just looking for excuses to turn their back on God and live their own way. "I don't believe in God because a good God wouldn't let evil happen to good people." Their mind is set and they aren't really seeking an answer and definitely don't want to seek God for the answer. They think they are justified just because they have questions. Their questions are really statements.

But the Psalmist goes to God with his questions. He doesn't go to God with pre-conceived ideas. He goes to God with honesty. Openly desiring only God's answers no matter what they are. Who are we to think we have the answers? Are we higher than God to suppose that we already know the answers? And who are we to even THINK God doesn't have an answer? Wouldn't we be saying God is confused, God is not all knowing, God is not all powerful, God is not in control? If God is not in control and all powerful, then He is not God and there is no meaning to this world.

When God begins to reveal Himself to the Psalmist, he begins to see from a godly perspective, the bigger picture and it humbles him. He realizes God is being merciful to the wicked to allow them time to turn to Him but His mercy is only for so long. If a person does not turn to God, then their judgement does come upon them and it comes swiftly. They may enjoy prosperity for a time but it all comes to an end whether here on this earth or in eternity. And the Psalmist, with his new perspective, turns to praise and his faith is renewed. He realizes that a godly person with little is still in a much better place than a wicked person with much. God's people have God on their side and, in eternity, they will live in Heaven with God and live in eternal glory. He is not only satisfied with God's answer but rejoices in it!

As I said, at the beginning, this Psalm is the result of spending time with God so this is a summary poem. Sometimes we go to God and ask questions and we don't immediately receive an answer. The answer comes with seeking. I remember praying and asking God to explain to me the difference between "mercy" and "grace" and what did those terms mean. I prayed this for a long time. I didn't just sit on my hands and wait. I went to church, read my Bible, went to Bible studies, read Christian books, etc. And, sure enough, one day I happened to watch a Christian TV preacher teaching on this very thing and I learned what the terms meant. And God didn't stop there! I heard teaching on it from several different sources and my mind was opened to God's mercy and grace and how it applies to my life. I learned about grace and mercy but I also learned God hears my prayers to learn more about Him and He makes sure, at the right time and in the right way, I get the answers that I seek. Now, if something bumfuzzles me, I ask God and I know He will attend to it. I mean, I want to learn about God and He wants me to learn about Him...so it will happen!

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