Tuesday, June 26, 2012

When Bad Things Happen to Good People -Psalm 73

Psalm 73 This Psalm shows a question that many Christians ask:Why do the wicked prosper? When the Psalm starts, it talks about God’s goodness.  However, as the Psalm continues, it is easy to see that this belief didnt come easy for Asaph. The first 14 verses of this Psalm describe how prosperous the wicked are, how God could strike them down but chooses not to, and how the righteous suffer and still God does nothing. The next verses, 15-28, show Asaph coming to an understanding of these things. He realizes that God’s people will suffer but, as 1st Peter 4:12-16 says, we will face suffering in this world but we need to remember our future glory.
Asaph- Asaph wrote Psalm 73. He also wrote Psalms 50 and 74-83. Asaph was one of the 3 leaders of David’s three Levitical choirs along with Heman and Jeduthun/Ethan; these three were representatives of the families and descendents of the three sons of Levi.

Make sure that as you read through this you apply it to your own life.
 Im going to address this explanation in two parts. The first part will be verses 1-14.

1Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart. We can tell here that this psalm was composed after Asaph had resolved his problem that had hurt his relationship with God. He had been unable to understand God’s goodness.
 “Pure in heart” - in biblical language the word heart meant the center of the human spirit where emotions, actions, thoughts, motivations, and courage come from. Matthew 5:8 Jesus says, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God”

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. Asaph is describing his doubt in God’s goodness. He almost fell off the straight path because of skepticism toward God. Asaph doubted God because it was obvious to see that the wicked were prospering. He may have been looking back at Deuteronomy 28 where God states the blessings for obedience and the curses for disobedience. Had God forgotten His promises? When we face hardships we tend to ask similar questions. We ask questions like "Has God forgotten about me?" "Does He really love me?"

4 They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. Although Asaph was overstating the problem (obviously not every wicked person had no struggles), he is seeing a wicked person prosper and a righteous friend sick. He feels that God is permitting awful injustices.  

 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. Pride is their necklace” this phrase contrasts Proverbs 3:3 “Let love and faithfulness never leave you;  bind them around your neck,” and other verses in Proverbs. Asaph is also showing in these verses that the wicked prospering lead to other sins such as pride and violence. Being envious of the wicked is a hard thing not to do.

7 From their callous hearts comes iniquity; 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. 11 They say, “How would God know?  Does the Most High know anything?”  In these verses Asaph is in a way showing God what’s happening. First they say they possess everything YOU made. Then they turn YOUR people away from you, and,  if this isn’t bad enough, they mock YOU!  Asaph is having a hard time understanding why God would let these things happen, why God would let his holy named be mocked when he has the power to stop it. What makes things worse is that the wicked don’t deny that there is a God.  They are just too happy and comfortable in their lives to care.

 12 This is what the wicked are like— always free of care, they go on amassing wealth. Here Asaph summarizes the last 7 verses; basically he’s saying the wicked are careless and filthy rich.

 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.   Asaph was previously talking about other people’s suffering, but here he talks about his OWN suffering.  He’s questioning why he has faith. He’s asking “Is it worth it?” Also we can see here that Asaph describes belonging to God as to having a pure heart and washed hands.
"Is it worth it?" We all have hardships in our lives and sometimes they seem unbearable. We want to give up. A question that runs through our mind is, "If life is gonna be this hard then is it really worth it?"

Applying this Psalm to our lives- When hard things happen in our lives, I think many of us tend to say to God. “Okay. So I’m following you. I’m doing the right thing here, and this is what I get? Is this all really worth it?”  I think something we need to understand  (and what Asaph grew to understand)  is in Isaiah 55:8 which says “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,”declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Applying this Psalm to Jesus’ life- During Jesus’ ministry He definitely saw and experienced the wicked prospering. He had no earthly home and no money, and He was criticized and mocked because of the truth He spoke unlike the Pharisees, who seemed to have it all. But Jesus did not care about earthly possessions. He understood and had hope in the greater treasure awaiting Him in heaven.

“We were promised sufferings. They were part of the program. We were even told, ''Blessed are they that mourn.''”-C.S. Lewis-

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