Psalm 73

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, July 8, 2019 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

Why do bad things happen to God's followers when God is good, and why do the wicked seem to prosper? These are questions that many people have struggled with, including the author of today’s psalm: Psalm 73. I encourage you to go to that link and read it before digging into this post.

The main theme of this psalm is the suffering of God’s children and the goodness of God. Verses 1-3 summarize these themes well: “Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart. But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.” We see the truth that God is good, how the psalmist has sinned, and how the wicked prosper.

Those who follow God know that life can (and usually will) be difficult. Following God does not mean that your life will suddenly be easy and happy; in fact, it’s often just the opposite of that. The psalmist is seeing those who don’t follow God experience the “good life,” and he’s clearly envious of them. After all, who wouldn’t be, right? If you see someone take the easy path, go against God, and seem to be doing really well for themselves, wouldn’t you wonder why you’re struggling so much to do what you know to be right?

We see this prosperity of the wicked in greater detail in verses 4-12. They seem to be so carefree, they’re not worried about life, they’re healthy, and they’re accumulating wealth. Everything seems to be going well for them. They don’t seem to suffer as the righteous do. They don’t regard God and His commandments and they are filled with pride (verse 6). They scoff, they boast, and they threaten (verse 8). They even directly mock God (verse 11).

In the next section, verses 13-17, the psalmist examines his reaction to this prosperity of the wicked. First, the psalmist doubts his own concern for the wicked, since they seem to be doing alright with following God (verse 13). Second, he suffers adversity and doesn’t understand why he’s suffering, so he’s confused about that (verse 14). Third, he is concerned for God’s people, and that’s part of why he strives to continue in righteousness and doesn’t just turn wicked himself (verse 15). Fourth, he realizes that he really can’t understand all this on his own without God’s help (verses 16-17).

It takes God’s presence to overpower the confusion that reigns in the psalmist’s heart as to why the wicked who ignore God prosper and he is so afflicted while trying to follow God. He remembers God’s truth that there will be justice in the end! While the wicked may prosper in this world, it’s only the Godly (those who have received God’s grace) who will prosper for all eternity by living in God’s presence rather than in the fires of hell. This is affirmed in verses 18-20, where he recounts how God will ultimately destroy the wicked.

In verses 21-22, the psalmist realizes he was a jerk to God when he was so bitter about the wicked prospering, before he got his perspective corrected. While this shift in perspective is important, it is also important to confess how we have sinned when we realize what we did wrong. We have to work through those negative feelings and be forgiven to be right with God again.

After this, the psalmist’s negativity transforms into joy with God’s presence in verses 23-26. He realizes that even though his situation on this earth may not be ideal, “earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (verse 25b-26). When God fixes our perspective, nothing else matters besides Him.

The psalm concludes with verses 27-28 fulfilling verses 1-3 that started this psalm. Where he had envy, he now has hope. He has experienced God’s goodness for himself in the form of future justice for the wicked while He has the love and joy of God’s presence. “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” (verse 28).

None of us are exempt from having bad things happen to us due to sin in this world. I heard it once said that, “No one is exempt from getting a butt whooping from the devil!” The more you surrender to God, the more the devil comes after you. Sometimes problems we experience are because God is bragging on us; just look at Job's life. Being a child of God does not exempt us from the difficulties of the world.

What are you struggling with in this world? Do you envy the lives that others have and wonder why your life doesn’t look like that? Make time to sit in God’s presence and experience who He is. Ask God to shift your perspective to His character instead of on the material things of this world that will pass away.

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