All Scripture in today’s post is taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved. (I actually went through this post and counted the words I quoted from the NKJV to make sure its words were less than 25% of the post, lol. That is why I typically use the public domain World English Bible, which is a good translation itself.
I have always loved the last few verses of Psalm 73. Long ago I memorized “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is none on earth I desire besides you” (v. 25). I use this verse both to exhort and to comfort myself. I remind myself with this verse to desire God first and foremost, and I encourage myself with this verse that God welcomes and desires me.
The entire Psalm is “deadly accurate.” It is an arrow fired right at our deceitful flesh, exposing it, and showing us how to crucify it.
My feet had almost stumbled; my steps had nearly slipped. For I was envious of the boastful, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. (vv. 2b-3)
Paul warns us that those who want to be rich face “temptation and a trap and many foolish and harmful lusts” (1 Tim. 6:9; reworded from old KJV). It is easy to envy worldly men and women who have wealth and adulation. They don’t seem to be suffering at all for their prosperity.
Behold, these are the ungodly, who are always at ease, they increase in riches. Surely I have cleansed my heart in vain and washed my hands in innocence. (vv. 12-13)
When we have to wait; when we are not seeing fruit; when we are struggling to make ends meet; at those times it can be hard to see the benefit of what we’re doing. It can be tempting to say, “I have cleansed my heart in vain.”
If I had said, “I will speak thus,” behold, I would have been untrue to the generation of your children. When I thought how to understand this, it was too painful for me—” (vv. 15-16)
Why are the wicked blessed while I suffer? Have you ever asked that question of yourself? I have. The first time I couldn’t pay an electric bill, I questioned God. I had been told that where God guides, he also provides. Then why couldn’t I afford to pay my bills? I know a man who was the son of a missionary. He passed out at school as a youth because he had not eaten in three days. He said he would never become a missionary and face such poverty.
How do we understand these things? They are too painful.
The NKJV ends that statement with a dash … a pause, then gives the important word “until”:
Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I understood their end. (v. 17)
When we despair, when we envy, when we almost anything, we will find the answer is to enter the sanctuary of God. There we will understand whatever we need to understand. In the case of the psalmist, it was to understand the end of the wicked. In our case, it might be anything. My questions were too painful … until … until I entered the sanctuary of God.
By sanctuary I mean, of course, the New Testament holy place, though the psalmist could only have meant the holy place in the stone temple built by Solomon. For us, the sanctuary is not a building made with the hands of men, but it is the holy place in the heavens, where the throne of grace is and to which we have bold access by the blood of Jesus (Heb. 4:16). There, where there is mercy and grace to help in time of need, we can see most clearly and think most wisely.
Here is a good time to tell you that my friend, the missionary’s kid who passed out at school because of three days without food, is a missionary himself now, accomplishing a great work of church planting and feeding the hungry in India.
Psalm 78 goes on to give a message of hope for our times of foolishness and ignorance:
I was so foolish and ignorant; I was like a beast before you. Nevertheless I am continually with you; You hold my by my right hand. (vv. 22-23)
And the conclusion:
It is good for me to draw near to God; I have put my trust in the LORD God, that I may declare all Your works. (v. 28)
I love Psalm 73.