August 17, 2016
Psalm 73 deals with the heart. It focuses on a believer’s doubt that grows out of an envy for the prosperity enjoyed by wicked people. Despite knowing that God is good to those who are pure in heart, this psalmist’s experience in the world, like many of ours, has caused him great confusion about prosperity and suffering—making this an incredibly relevant psalm.Although the psalmist’s vivid depiction of the wicked uses some extreme language, we should be careful not to collapse this group into a villain caricature.
Although the “wicked” here certainly includes those who are openly proud or malicious, the psalmist says that somehow the people of God find no fault in this group, even though they have set their mouths against the heaven. Why is this the case? The reason seems to point to a posture of living, rather than simply wanton violence or oppression. The wicked here are potentially any with an attitude that says “How can God know? Is there knowledge in the Most High?” This attitude seeks to dethrone the Source of all life and prosperity, regardless if it is openly evil or simply just willfully ignorant the one true God—this is what the psalmist means by ‘wicked.’
After plumbing the depths of this wickedness, and nearly succumbing to the temptation of joining it, the psalmist’s encounter with God obliterates any appeal such wickedness had—here he suddenly and shockingly discerns the wicked’s end. Those who deny God—the Giver of all gifts—and live as though he does not exist, will ultimately fall to ruin and be destroyed in a moment. This terrible depiction of complete and utter devastation helps sober the psalmist about the peril of seeking earthly prosperity through wicked gain. At one point, the destruction is even compared to God waking from a dream and realizing that the wicked’s existence was merely an unpleasant memory—that they never really existed to begin with. This intense vision convicts the psalmist and helps refocus his heart on what is most important…
Despite the psalmist’s doubting of God’s goodness, he remains continually with God through all of this. Why? Is it because the psalmist is really good and faithful at heart? No, not at all. It’s because God has been holding his right hand the entire time, refusing to let him go. As his eyes shift from the fate of the wicked to the beauty of God, the psalmist’s comprehension of his Maker becomes a furnace of affection. He realizes that the main reason he should not follow those who refuse to acknowledge God isn’t primarily because it leads to ruin, but rather because God is so much better than everything the wicked pursue. He realizes that there is nothing in heaven or on earth that is more valuable or more worthy of affection than this great God. And even if the psalmist is stricken and ultimately dies, God will remain his heart’s strength and portion forever. Period.
Our hearts were made to love God. This act of love gives him the glory he is due and us the immeasurable joy we were made for. So how do we take our eyes off of wanting things that distract us from God—whether good or evil—and put our eyes on God himself?
First, we have to recognize that everything in our lives—whether it be our family or success in our career—is meant to point us to God. Everything we enjoy in this life isn’t an end in itself, but serves as gift from a Giver, and therefore the kind of joy and satisfaction in those things should always extend upward to God, who has given us them. Spend time intentionally recalling all that God’s done for you creates a perpetual state of thankfulness. Don’t just do this for the little things that occupy this life, but constantly remember the Big Gift that happened in human history: The fact that God did not abandon us to our envy, but purchased our unending joy in him by sending his Son to die in our places: this severs the root of envy, because in Jesus we’ve received something infinitely more valuable that we could ever buy or barter for in this life. And you will only see this infinite value by looking at the cross in Scripture—so give yourself to this. Make experiencing him and showing him from the Bible the center of your life, not simply just something you do on the side.